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130 illustrations and colour frontispiece 

Bodies roped to railway lines, heroes in 
cellars where tide-water is rising, cir- 
c ular saws or steam-hammers threatening 
the lives of helpless victims, early 
Christians about to be thrown to the 
lions, sinking ships, cars over precipices, 
earthquakes, volcanoes, tempest, fire and 
flood spectacles such as these are ex- 
pected by audiences that await the rising 
of the curtain in melodrama. 

But it still functions when deprived of 
scenic excitement, says the author. In 
an entertaining account of the stories and 
background of the principal melodramas 
Willson Disher shows the more common 
ingredient was virtue triumphant or 
crime exultant, from which one might 
argue that the characters must be either 
black or white, or how could right do 
battle with wrong? That, he concludes, 
is reckoning without the sense of guilt. 
This, says Willson Disher, is the heart of 
the matter. It is the sense of guilt which 
contains the struggle within one breast. 

So we follow the theme, from Jane 
Shore down to The Vortex and later. For 
melodrama took on a new lease of life, 
started a fresh existence in films, talkin^- 
hlms, radio, television and now in 3-D. 

"Such lively survivals of the spirit 
which is my study, means that this book 
cannot be regarded in a purely anti- 
quarian light" — indeed it cannot, for 
the Postcript brings us to Barrault in The 
Trial of Kafka. 

Over 1 30 illustrations and colour 

37417 NilesBlvd OK r /f 510-494-1411 

Fremont, CA 94536 

Scanned from the collections of 
Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum 

Coordinated by the 
Media History Digital Library 

Funded by a donation from 
Jeff Joseph 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

Media History Digital Library 


By the Same Author 



About Nothing Whatever 

Histories of Entertainment 

Blood and Thunder 

Clowns and Pantomimes 

Winkles and Champagne 

Greatest Show on Earth 

Fairs, Music-Hails and Circuses 

Pleasures of London 


The Last Romantic (Martin-Harvey) 

Mad Genius (Edmund Kean) 

Whitely Wanton (Mary Fytton and Shakespeare) 

The Cowells in America 


I ii v O'Connor : Save me. Don't kill me. Don't, Danny. I'll — do anything, only let 
me live. A shot rings out, and he falls from the rock (Adelphi Theatre, i860) 





Illustrated from the 

Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson 

Theatre Collection 



i 9 £4 


Made and printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay and Company, Ltd., 
Bungay, Suffolk 

O(o- 00\- 1-&\ 



Introduction: 1850 to 1950 onwards xiii 

1 Magdalens : Jane Shore 1 

2 Sensation Dramas : The Colleen Bawn 3 

3 The Sins of Society : Black Sheep 20 

4 The Woman Novelist : East Lynne 27 

5 Cup-and-Saucer Comedy : Caste 33 

6 Detective Stories : The Ticket-of-Leave Man 42 

7 Murder Puzzles : The Mystery Of A Hansom Cab 50 

8 Secret Service : Diplomacy 55 

9 Modern Life : Lost In London 62 

10 Brutal Realism : The Lights O' London 69 

11 Drawing-Room Drama : Jim The Penman 80 

12 Play Panoramic or Ultra-Sensational : The Great City 84 

13 " Grecian " Dramatists : New Babylon 87 

14 William Terriss and the Adelphi: The Bells Of Haslemere 96 

15 Wilson Barrett and the Princess's : The Silver King 102 

16 Parsons In Love : The New Magdalen no 

17 Sex and Salvation: The Sign Of The Cross 115 

18 Melodrama Mocked : Gilbert and Sullivan 125 

19 Male Magdalens : The Profligate 129 

20 The Truth about Virtue : Ibsen 135 

21 Crime Repentant : Irving 139 

22 High Life at Drury Lane : The Derby Winner 153 

23 The Manx Shakespeare : The Bondman 160 


24 Melvillian Melodrama : The Worst Woman In London 165 

25 Gentlemen Cracksmen: Alias Jimmy Valentine 176 

26 Melodrama on the Screen : Ben Hur 1 80 

27 Marriages and Murders : Maugham to Wallace 187 

28 Grand Finale : Young England in 1934 and 1939 193 
Postscript : The Trial adapted from Kafka 197 
Index to Persons and Places 199 
Index to Plays 204 
Index to Films 208 
Index to Theatres 209 

(Througlwut the book, the titles of plays are printed, in italics, the titles of novels in Roman type.) 


Thanks are due to Mr. Bert Hammond of the Prince's Theatre for generous assistance 

I The Colleen Bawn (Adelphi Theatre, i860) Frontispiece 

II The Shaughraun (New York, 1874) : Dion Boucicault as Conn, 
Jane Burke as Moya and John Gilbert as Father Dolan 

facing page 4 

III The Long Strike (Lyceum, 1866) : A shot through the hedge 

lays Jack Readley low 4 

IV The Shaughraun (Drury Lane, 1875) : The Wake of Conn the 

Shaughraun 4 

V & VI Rip Van Winkle (Adelphi, 1865) : Joseph Jefferson as Rip before 

and after his twenty years' sleep in the mountain 5 

VII The Thirst for Gold (alias The Sea of Ice) (Adelphi, 1853): 
Benjamin Webster as villainous Pedro abandons the hero 
and his family on an ice-floe 5 

VIII Stock Poster {c. 1900) for a touring company of the English 

version of Boucicault's The Poor of New York 16 

IX Stock Poster (c. 1900) for a touring company of a dramatization 

of Mrs. Henry Wood's famous novel 17 

X & XI Caste (Prince of Wales's, 1867) : John Hare as Sam Gerridge and 

Marie Wilton (later Mrs. Bancroft) as Polly Eccles 42 

XII Caste (Prince of Wales's, 1867) : Squire Bancroft as Captain 

Hawtree 42 

XIII School (Prince of Wales's, 1869) : John Hare as Beau Farintosh 42 

XIV The Ticket-of-Leave Man (Olympic, 1863 ) : Henry Neville 

as Bob Brierley 
XV The Ticket-of-Leave Man (Olympic, 1863) : Miss Raynham 
as Sam Willoughby and Lydia Foote as May Edwards 
XVI The Ticket-of-Leave Man (Olympic, 1863) : The returned 
convict is dismissed from his employment 
The Woman in White (Olympic, 1871) 1 r . , 
No Thoroughfare (Adelphi, 1867) J ^ng above 

Diplomacy (Prince of Wales's, 1878) : Mr. and Mrs. Kendal as 

Dora and Captain Beauclerc facing page 43 

XX Diplomacy (Prince of Wales's, 1878) : W. H. Kendal and John 

Clayton as the brothers Beauclerc 43 

XXI Diplomacy (Prince of Wales's, 1878) : Mrs. Bancroft as the 

Comtesse Zicka 43 

Sarah Bernhardt in The Lady of the Camellias 58 

Sarah Bernhardt in Theodora (Paris, 1884) $8 


verso of 



verso of 






XXIV La Tosca (Paris, 1887) : Sarah Bernhardt 
XXV La Tosca (Garrick, 1889) : Mrs. Bernard Beere 
XXVI Fedora (Haymarket, 1886) : Mrs. Bernard Beere 
XXVII Adrienne Lecouvreur (Paris, 1880) : Sarah Bernhardt 
XXVIII Lost in London (Adelphi, 1867) : Adelaide Neilson as 
Nelly Armroyd 
XXIX Lost in London (Adelphi, 1867): J. L. Toole as 

Benjamin Blinker 

XXX Jo (Globe, 1876) : Jennie Lee as the crossing-sweeper 

XXXI Two Little Vagabonds (Princess's, 1896) : Sydney 

Fairbrother as Wally 

Two Orphans (Olympic, 1874) : 1. Helena Ernstone as 

Henriette. 2. William Rignold as Jacques. 3. Mrs. 

Charles Viner as Countess de Liniere. 4. Henry 

Neville as Pierre. 5. Mrs. Huntley as La Frochard. 

6. Emily Fowler as Louise facing P a g e 59 

The Lights London (Princess's, 1881): On the road to 

The Lights London (Princess's, 1881): The Canal, 
Regent's Park 

The Lights London (Princess's, 1881): Mary Eastlake as 
Bess and Wilson Barrett as Harold Armitage 

XXXVI Drink (Princess's, 1879) : Charles Warner as Coupeau 

XXXVII Jim The Penman (Haymarket, 1886): E. S. Willard, who 
succeeded Arthur Dacre, as the forger 

XXXVIII Captain Swift (Haymarket, 1888): Beerbohm Tree as 
XXXIX The Still Alarm (Princess's, 1888) 
XL The World (Drury Lane, 1880) 

XLI A Run of Luck (Drury Lane, 1886): E. W. Gardiner, 
William Rignold, Harry Nicholls, Sophie Eyre, Alma 
Murray, and J. G. Grahame 

XLII & XLIII William Terriss as Sir Kenneth in Richard Coeur de Lion 
(Drury Lane, 1874): and as Dudley Keppel in 
One of the Best (Adelphi, 1895) 

XLIV & XLV William Terriss and Jessie Millward in The Harbour 
Lights (Adelphi, 1885) and The Fatal Card (Adelphi, 
XLVI Secret Service (Adelphi, 1897) : William Gillette as Lewis 

XLVII In the Ranks (Adelphi, 1883) 

XLVIII&XLIX The Silver King (Princess's, 1882): Wilson Barrett 

as Wilfred Denver and Mary Eastlake as his wife 112 

L Wilson Barrett as Wilfred Denver 112 

LI Wilson Barrett as Claudian (Princess's, 1890) 112 






LII Olivia (Court, 1878) : Ellen Terry and Hermann Vezin as 

the Vicar of Wakefield and his daughter facing page 113 
LIII The Golden Ladder (Globe, 1887) : Wilson Barrett as the 

Rev. Frank Thornhill 113 

LIV Judah (Shaftesbury, 1890): E. S. Willard as the Minister 

Judah Llewellyn and Olga Brandon as Vashti Dethic 113 

LV & LVI The Dancing Girl (Haymarket, 1891) : Beerbohm Tree as 
the Duke of Guisebury and Julia Neilson as Drusilla 
Ives 120 

LVII The Dancing Girl : Fred Terry as John Christison 120 

LVIII The Neiv Magdalen (Olympic, 1873): Ada Cavendish as 

Mercy Merrick 120 

LIX The Sign of the Cross (Lyric, Jan. 1896) : Franklin McLeay 

as Nero 121 

LX The Christian King (Adelphi, 1902): Wilson Barrett as 

King Alfred 121 

LXI The Manxman (Lyric, Nov. 1896) : Wilson Barrett as 

Pete 121 

LXII The Daughters of Babylon (Lyric, 1897) : Wilson Barrett as 

Lemuel and Maud Jeffries as Elna 121 

LXIII&LXIV The Sign of the Cross (Lyric, 1896): Wilson Barrett 

as Marcus and Maud Jeffries as Mercia 124 

LXV & LXVI Dan I Druce, Blacksmith (Haymarket, 1876) : Marion 
Terry as Dorothy. Forbes Robertson as Geoffrey 
Wynyard 125 

LXVII The Squire (St. James's, 1881): Mr. and Mrs. Kendal as 

Lieut. Thorndyke and Kate Verity 125 

LXVIII Little Lord Fauntleroy (Prince of Wales's, 1888): Annie 

Hughes as Cedric Errol 125 

LXIX The Ironmaster (St. James's, 1884) : Mr. and Mrs. Kendal 

as Philippe and Claire 138 

LXX La Dame Aux Camelias (Lyric, 1893) : Eleonora Duse as 

Marguerite Gautier 138 

LXXI & LXXII The Second Mrs. Tanqueray (St. James's, 1893) : Cyril 
Maude as Drummle, George Alexander as 
Tanqueray and Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Paula 138 
LXXIII The Fate of Eugene Aram (Lyceum, 1873) : Henry 
Irving as Aram and Isabel Bateman as Ruth 

LXXIV Dante (Drury Lane, 1903 ) : Henry Irving as Dante 
and William Mollison as Cardinal Colonna 

verso of 

LXXV & LXXVI Henry Irving as Mathias in The Bells, Act 
II and Act III (Lyceum, 1871) 
LXXVII Henry Irving as Louis XI (Lyceum, 1878) 
LXXVIII Henry Irving as Vanderdecken (Lyceum, 1878) 
LXXIX Trilby (Haymarket, 1895) : Tree, at piano, as Svengali 139 



LXXX The Only Way (Lyceum, 1899): Martin Harvey as 

Sydney Carton facing page 139 

LXXXI & LXXXII The Christian (Lyceum, 1907) : Matheson Lang 

as John Storm and Alice Crawford as Glory Quayle 148 
LXXXIII The Prodigal Son (Drury Lane, 1905) 148 

LXXXIV The Bondman (Drury Lane, 1906) : Jason (Frank Cooper) 

becomes Bondman to Michael (Henry Ainley) 149 

LXXXV The Whip (Drury Lane, 1909) : The favourite is saved 149 

LXXXVI The Sins of Society (Drury Lane, 1907) : Lady Marion 
Beaumont (Constance Collier) escapes, having rescued 
the incriminating box 160 

LXXXVII The Sins of Society: As the troopship " Beachy Head" 

founders the soldiers salute 160 

LXXXVIII The Hope (Drury Lane, 1911) : The earthquake 161 

LXXXIX The Hope (Drury Lane, 1911): Brenda Carlyon (Evelyn 

D'Alroy) leads in the Derby winner 161 

XC Between Two Women (Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1902) 164 

XCI The Soldier's Wedding (Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1906) : " After 

twelve years ! " 164 

XCII The Bad Girl of the Family (Aldwych, 1909) : Bess (Violet 
Englefield), the bad girl, allows herself to be abducted 
by the villain in place of Gladys (Maud Linden) 165 

XCIII The Bad Girl of the Family (Aldwych, 1909) : Bess charged 

at Bow Street 165 

XCIV Arsene Lupin (Duke of York's, 1909) : The Due de 
Chamerace (Gerald Du Maurier) escapes from the 
detective (Dennis Eadie) 176 

XCV Alias Jimmy Valentine (Comedy, 1910) : Jimmy Valentine 
(Gerald Du Maurier) opens the safe and Kitty Lane, 
half suffocated, falls out 176 

XCVI A Royal Divorce : Josephine (Edith Cole) : " Here at thy feet 

I throw the diadem I may not wear on sufferance." 177 

XCVII An Englishman's Home (Wyndham's, 1909) : Geoffrey 

Smith the traitor (Lawrence Grossmith) is shot through 

the heart by the invaders 177 

XCVIII The Perils of Pauline, shown everywhere, 1914 180 

XCIX Intolerance, shown Drury Lane, 1916 180 

C Ben Hur, shown Tivoli, 1926 181 

CI East Lynne, shown 1930 : Flora Sheffield, David Torrence, 

Conrad Nagel, Ann Harding, Cecilia Loftus 181 

CII The Vortex (Everyman, Hampstead, 1924) : Nicky Lan- 
caster (Noel Coward) condemns his mother (Lilian 
Braithwaite) 192 

CIII The Ringer (Wyndham's, 1926) : Gordon Harker, Henry 

Forbes, Dorothy Dickson, Franklin Dyall, Leslie Faber 192 

CIV Young England (Victoria Palace, 1934) *93 


Uncle Toms Cabin (Olympic, 1852) page 3 

The Octoroon (Adelphi, 1861) : The Slave Market 7 

The Poor of New York (New York, 1857) 9 

Under the Gaslight (New York, 1867) 14 

London by Night (Royal Strand, 1844) 15 

Still Waters Run Deep (Olympic, 1855) 21 

Captain Cuttle (New York, 1850) 25 

The Lottery of Life (New York, 1867) 26 
Camille, or, The Fate of a Coquette, American version of La Dame Aux 

Camelias (1856) 29 

Blow for Blow (Holborn Theatre, 1868) 31 

The Romance of a Poor Young Man (New York, 1859) 35 

Ours (Prince of Wales's, 1866) : The Hut in the Crimea 39 

Vidocq, The French Police Spy (Surrey Theatre, 1829) 45 

The Dumb Man of Manchester (Astley's, 1837) 46 

Susan Hopley, or The Vicissitudes of a Servant Girl (Victoria Theatre, 1841) 47 
Plot and Passion (Olympic, 1853): Desmarets of the secret police de- 
nounces Madame de Fontanges to her lover in the presence of 

Fouche 57 

Mary Warner (Haymarket, 1869) : Kate Bateman as the convict 65 

It 's Never Too Late to Mend (Princess's, 1865) : The Australian Goldfields 71 
The Two Orphans (Olympic, 1874) : Rignold and Neville setting a new 

standard for realism in stage fights 73 
The Romany Rye (Princess's, 1882) : with Wilson Barrett as Jack Hearne 

and Mary Eastlake as Gertie Heckett 75 

Youth (Drury Lane, 1881) 91 

For Ever (Surrey Theatre, 1882) 93 

The Bells ofHaslemere (Adelphi, 1887) 99 

Jane Shore (Princess's, 1876) : Caroline Heath as the penitent 105 

Nowadays (Princess's, 1889) 119 
Hermann Vezin as Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith : " Hands off! Touch not 

the Lord's Gift." 127 

Partners for Life (Globe, 1871) 131 

Charles I (Lyceum, 1872) : Henry Irving and Isabel Bateman 143 

Pleasure (Drury Lane, 1887) 156 

A Life of Pleasure (Drury Lane, 1893) *57 

Ignoring Frederick Melville 167 

Walter Melville keeps his eye on the power of woman — muscular 169 

A GirVs Cross Roads (Standard, also Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1903) 170 

The Ugliest Woman on Earth (Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1904) 171 

The Beggar-GirVs Wedding (Elephant and Castle, 1908) 173 


1850 to 1950 onwards 

SHAKESPEARE'S audiences liked blood, Restoration wits pre- 
ferred sex, eighteenth-century exquisites favoured sentiment and 
Victorians demanded morals. Midway through the nineteenth 
century the theatres of London, Paris, and New York were over- 
whelmingly devoted to the display of virtue in conflict with vice. 
Authors depicted the struggle in novels and artists in pictures ; it was 
the dominant theme of the age. 

Our shelves can soon be burdened with masses of badly printed 
11 penny plays " belonging to the period. To read them all untiringly 
may not be difficult once they have become an acquired taste, but to 
discover some sort of order into which these manifestations of the 
zest for righteousness may naturally fall, seems impossible and very 
nearly is. We foresee at the start an objection that drama has in all ages 
represented the conflict between good and evil, and we must agree that 
it may well be so ; but in melodrama, where these are called virtue 
and vice, there is a difference. They are more sharply defined and 
of less magnitude than elemental forces ; they do not get out of con- 
trol, and in the end, happy or unhappy, sin is not only published — as 
it always has been in the tragic masterpieces of the world — but 
punished in such a manner that a cosmic partiality for the virginal 
is powerfully made known. You will not find that in Shakespeare. 

With this as a basis for enquiry an attempt may be made to trace 
the progress of the idea. Earlier in the century a solid conviction had 
been established that Virtue Triumphant was the law of science and 
of nature, and while Dickens wrote his novels secure in this faith, a 
multitude of hacks, whose scribblings bear a strong family likeness 
to his, exploited it just as conscientiously, though without his genius. 
It must not be forgotten that stage versions of his works, hastily 
adapted by the " resident playwright " at many a theatre, were as 
much the mainstay of the Victorian stage as Shakespeare's works 
were of the Jacobean. Long after the half-way line of the nineteenth 
century had been passed there were still dramatizations of Dickens, 
and still the same insistence on the triumphs of virtue. 



What, then, was new in melodrama as the twentieth century 
approached? Strictly speaking, the answer might be, " Nothing ", 
since essentials remained unchanged; but there was a continual out- 
cry over scenic superficialities, and these are well worthy of our 
concern in spite of, or because of, their insensibility to the absurd — 
always one of melodrama's hallmarks. Realism, which altered 
nothing, was supposed to alter everything. In the vain hope of 
achieving truth to life, scenes were constructed to reproduce on the 
one hand calamities reported in the newspapers, and on the other 
the small, insignificant details of ordinary homes. Realism had yet 
another meaning. When uttered in a tone of horror it stood for the 
encroachment into fiction of such scandalous subjects as bigamy and 
infidelity or worse — straight from courts of law, in modern dress. 

These were judged to be immoral in their tendency, and something 
had to be done to counterbalance them. Hence the ever-increasing 
stress laid on the sense of guilt, the argument being that if sinners 
in plays were sufficiently conscience-stricken their influence over 
audiences would be good or, at least, not quite so bad. Here is the 
clue to the maze of dramatic literature which reflects the divergent 
beliefs that set everybody at loggerheads while the old century was 
giving birth to the new. Neither Ibsen nor Irving can be left out of 
our reckoning : both were involved in the sense of guilt, though one 
saw in it a sign of grace and the other a proof of damnation. And when 
Ibsen had won the day, so that virtue could no longer be regarded as a 
sure means of profit, since he had so clearly demonstrated it to be its 
own painful reward, the day not only of melodrama but also of melo- 
dramatic thinking might reasonably have been said to be over. But it 
was not. First it took on a new lease of life in the theatre, and then started 
a fresh existence in films, talking-films, radio, television and three- 
dimensional films with other mechanized metamorphoses to follow. 

Such lively survivals of the spirit which has been my study, means 
that this book cannot be regarded in a purely antiquarian light. 
People still weigh existence in terms of praise and blame, and still 
believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary accumulated during 
two world wars, that heroes prosper while villains die miserably. 
Perhaps it is possible to prefer this in modern entertainments to beer 
and skittles, perhaps not, but we need not be deluded by it now we 
know whence it comes and what it is worth. In Victorian settings it 
had a charm altogether lacking in ours. After the feeble displays of 
half-hearted wickedness that we are treated to by living authors who 
aspire to be moralists, playgoers might like to be reminded what 
genuine melodramas were like when vice and virtue were cherished 
not as the luxuries they seem to be now, but as necessities. 


Jane Shore 

BODIES roped to railway lines, heroes in cellars where tide-water is 
rising, circular saws or steam-hammers threatening the lives of helpless 
victims, early Christians about to be thrown to the lions, sinking ships, 
cars over precipices, earthquakes, volcanoes, tempest, fire and flood — 
spectacles such as these are expected by audiences that await the rising of 
the curtain on melodrama. Yet it still functions when deprived of scenic 
excitement. How little it needs such " special attractions " as real 
water, real animals or real machinery, has been demonstrated over and 
over again. Its essence was once supposed to be the contrast of inno- 
cence in poverty with vice amid wealth, but while many hundreds of 
plays support this theory, many dozens do not. Virtue triumphant is 
the theme of some and crime exultant of others, from which it has 
been argued that all characters in a world peopled by heroes, heroines, 
villains, over-wrought parents and loyal servants must be either black 
or white. Otherwise how could right do battle against wrong ? That 
is reckoning without the sense of guilt which contains the struggle 
within one breast. 

There never has been a more popular protagonist than the erring 
woman who is chaste in soul though guilty in deed. " The Magdalen " 
is her oldest name. She got it in a manner which brings discredit on 
everybody but herself, for only our inherent love of scandal-mongering 
can identify the woman in Luke's Gospel who wept for her sins with 
Mary called Magdalen out of whom went seven devils. It is too late 
to vindicate her. Magdalens are penitents, and maudlin are the tears 
we shed over them. 

The one who has caused more such floods than any other is as well 
known in fact as in fiction. Jane Shore, the mistress of Edward IV, 
did penance outside St. Paul's in 1483, and was represented in plays for 
centuries after. It remained for a German author to bring upon the 
stage a Magdalen who was both wife and mother. Misanthropy And 
Repentance, by Kotzebue, won world-wide fame, and under the title of 
The Stranger was constantly acted in England throughout the nineteenth 


century. The sorrows of its heroine, Mrs. Haller, on returning to 
the home she formerly deserted, may be gathered from, " My tears 
flow; my heart bleeds. Already had I apparently overcome my 
chagrin ; already had I at last assumed that easy gaiety once so natural to 
me, when the sight of this child in an instant overpowered me. When 
the countess called him William — Oh she knew not that she plunged a 
poniard in my very heart." With or without William she has been 
reappearing in some form or other in plays or novels ever since, but 
these are types merely of tear-compelling penitence. By the time of 
the Regency the unfortunate wore her sense of guilt with a difference. 
In The Miller And His Men we find her — named Ravinia to indicate her 
depths of despair — swearing revenge. In the highly explosive finale 
she takes a torch to the powder-magazine of her betrayer's band of 
banditti and blows them sky-high. Though she may look to us some- 
what like the female villains known as vampires she is honest at heart. 

Victorian audiences ought to have grown accustomed to these 
particular brands of virtue. Yet they could stiD be shocked by the 
sinner that repenteth ; it was proved when Dumas//s invited the world 
to accept a prostitute for heroine in La Dame Aux Camelias. Such a 
shriek of protest arose from outraged feelings that we are puzzled to 
observe, during that self-same year of 1852, the welcome given at the 
Haymarket to a drama which likewise had a harlot heroine. 

Its authors were two young barristers, crowned with honours from 
the older Universities, who soon pushed their way through the many 
old lags of playwrights. One was Tom Taylor, assistant secretary to 
the Board of Health, and the other Charles Reade, Vice-President of 
Magdalen College, Oxford. Their Masks And Faces depicted Peg 
Wofhngton, the eighteenth-century actress who was as brazen a bad 
hat as ever capered before the footlights, in the guise of a " fallen 
creature with a touching sense of her own degradation ". 

Yet another kind of Magdalen appeared in 1851 when " Uncle Tom's 
Cabin " was running as a serial. For all the talk about Uncle Tom 
himself and Little Eva, the most significant character is Miss Cassy, 
more cruelly dishonoured than any woman in an English story. " In 
her eye was a deep settled night of anguish ", added new meaning to the 
sense of guilt. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin (Olympic, 1852) 

2 Sensation Dramas 

The Colleen Bawn 

HOW Mrs. Beecher Stowe came to think in terms of the theatre 
cannot be explained : she conceived " Uncle Tom's Cabin " with an 
eye for picturesque suspense which destined it for triumphs when 
adapted to the stage. Her affinity with the footlights was uncanny; 
that she imagined " situations " in that way is made clear by a pair of 
curious coincidences. While she was writing about Eliza's escape 
across the thawing river, a playwright in Paris named Dennery thought 
of a mother's courage when leaping from floe to floe, for the melo- 
drama to be known as The Sea Of Ice ; and while the pen in America set 
down how another fugitive swung from a tree that grew in a ravine, 
Charles Kean at the Princess's in London constructed a " practicable " 
setting in which the hero of Sheridan's Pizarro swung from a tree after 
the same fashion. 

These facts are so queer that they read ironically, but they are set 
down because of their intrinsic interest and certainly without any intent 
of directing sarcasm towards the righteousness of Mrs. Stowe. The 
purpose of her novel must be set aside if full justice is to be done to 
the importance of its place in the history of entertainment. If the 


spectacular aspects of her fancy are thought of as events in the annals of 
melodrama, they are seen to possess a surprising significance, for when 
they were transferred to the stage they began the garish vogue of the 
Sensation Drama. It is a clear case of cause and effect, for the show- 
man who " invented " this type of play did so when he tried to exploit 
her popularity. The influence of Mrs. Stowe, daughter, sister and wife 
of preachers, upon things purely theatrical was direct. 

To understand the success of" Uncle Tom's Cabin " immediately it 
was published as a novel in 1852, reference must be made not only to 
the state of slavery but also to the state of fiction. How easily the 
public had been satisfied up to that precise moment can be judged by 
examining Minnigrey; or, The Gypsies Of Epsom, an insipid drama with a 
lady-like heroine who is supposed to be of gypsy origin until proved 
otherwise. This poor stuff aroused enough enthusiasm to cause it to 
be acted at several London theatres in 1852 before the excitement over 
Mrs. Stowe's story began so feverishly that one old hack, Edward Fitz- 
ball, at once wrote three Uncle Toms — for Drury Lane, the Olympic 
and the Grecian — while rival versions at many other Cockney pleasure 
haunts included Uncle Tom And Lucy Neal ; or, Harlequin Liberty And 
Slavery, with song, dance, masks, clown and red-hot poker, the White- 
chapel Pavilion Christmas pantomime of 1852. 

Yet, although companies were touring the northern cities of the 
United States with Uncle Tom in all shapes and sizes, seven years passed 
without any such representation on Broadway. When he did at last 
appear there in the December of 1859 his welcome was so well assured 
that another play on the subject of slavery had been written in order to 
share in it. This was Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon ; or, Life In 
Louisiana, at the Winter Garden, which told how the papers that would 
free the heroine are stolen by a scoundrel who is photographed in the 
act and then, by the light of a burning ship which eventually blows up, 
stabbed to death by a Redskin in full war-paint. The central idea was 
taken from The Creole, seen in London at the Lyceum twelve years 
earlier, and the " sensation " of the exploding ship had been seen in 
New York a few months before, but the up-to-date use of a camera was 

This method of borrowing a plot from one source and a scenic device 
from another, and then adding a newly invented apparatus which 
would remind an audience of its modern life, deserves to be noted be- 
cause it was one that Dion Boucicault often employed. He was an 
Irish actor who had Agnes Robertson, his Scottish bride, for leading 
lady ; with her he had left London because there the wages of success 
were too low. For six years he had been sailing backwards and for- 


New York, 1874 : Dion Boucicault as Conn, Jane 
tBurke as Moya and John Gilbert as Father Dolan 


Lyceum, 1866 : A shot through the hedge lays 
Jack Readley low 

Drury Lane, 1875 : The Wake of Conn the Shaughraun 

Adelphi, 1865 : Joseph Jefferson as Rip before and after his twenty years' sleep in the mountain 

■-■^. -, '■'/■■ ■:,- --'/-"■,,,. 

aP ;: - 


Adelphi, 1853 : Benjamin Webster as villainous Pedro abandons the hero and his family on an ice-floe 


wards, selling translations, dramatizations and adaptations on both 
sides of the Atlantic, and still was far from satisfied. Even the fortune 
he had won at the Winter Garden was not enough. Laying the MS. of 
The Octoroon aside until it should be needed on his next return to Lon- 
don, he set about refurbishing yet another old play that he felt confident 
of passing off as his own work under the title of The Colleen Bawn ; or, 
The Brides Of Garry owen. 

It was based on Gerald Griffin's novel, " The Collegians ", the story 
of Eily O'Connor, whose faithless husband, having set his heart on 
marrying a young woman of wealth, causes his colleen to be drowned. 
Long ago in the 1830s, which was farther back than most playgoers 
could remember, the hungry tribe of theatrical hacks had avidly seized 
this sad story with a gallows ending, and set versions of it on most of 
the boards of Great Britain and America. But the plot lost its police- 
court squalor when Boucicault added a character to be acted by him- 
self. No sooner had Eily, in his play, been pitched into the waters 
where they flow into a cave by the shores of a lake, than she was 
rescued by the gay, lively, impudent poacher, Myles-na-Coppaleen. 
Thus the needs of both the author and his wife had been well looked 
after. The strange thing is that when he took the piece to Laura 
Keene's Theatre for the spring of i860 it was accepted, though all it had 
to offer Laura Keene was the vapid part of the wealthy " bride ". 

Even on the eve of civil war, New York gave it a whole-hearted 
welcome. Much was owing to the players and much to the play, but 
much more to the " sensation ". This occurred when Agnes Robert- 
son, as Eily, first sank beneath, and then rose above, the surface. 
Excitement was intense because the water, for the first time in stage 
history, was transparent. Rumour said that this effect, obtained by the 
use of blue gauze, had been invented by a stage-carpenter. The 
triumph, nevertheless, was Boucicault's. 

His enterprising spirit was now painfully aware that unless he crossed 
the Atlantic soon he would have no copyright either in a plot that was 
not his or in a spectacle that belonged to any management in England 
that might stage it forthwith. No play belonged to its own author 
until he had established his claim by means of a performance which, to 
effect copyright, had to be the first in that country. Boucicault re- 
turned to London in the summer of i860. More than one manager in 
the English provinces had decided to revive Eily O'Connor with its new 
title and stage effects, but by threats and injunctions he fought them off, 
and by the exercise of blarney he gained the use of the Adelphi from its 
hard-headed manager, Ben Webster, who had himself presented a 
version of the play thirty years before and took no pleasure in seeing a 


young upstart up to such old tricks. At the Adelphi, on 10 September, 
i860, the London vogue of the " Sensation Drama " began. 

Canvas waves, and stormy seas with small boys beneath to make the 
billows angry, had been seen in scores of nautical pieces, but never be- 
fore had any hero won applause by a death-defying dive into blue 
gauze, a few yards of which meant more than the finest acting to thous- 
ands. It drew people who had hitherto shunned theatres, inspired 
Benedict's opera, The Lily Of Killarney, and caused Queen Victoria, 
who visited the Adelphi three times in one fortnight, to have portraits 
of the Boucicaults painted for Windsor Castle. 

In order to get his threatened drama quickly on to the stage, Bouci- 
cault had accepted miserly terms for a " limited number of nights ", 
which was still the announcement until " re-engagement " took its 
place on the eighty-fifth. Webster's point of view is readily under- 
stood, for when told that the piece was good he could respond that it 
always had been. Clashes between the new star and the cantankerous 
old despot were thus unavoidable. Unlike other quarrels which kept 
Green Rooms amused, this one was paraded before the public so that 
loafers in the Strand noted on the new playbills each Monday and 
Thursday how the vendetta was progressing. News was pasted for 
their benefit outside the Adelphi as a gratuitous feuilleton which began 
with innocent words in July about the need of the two stars " to take 
some rest from their incessant labour " after the 226th night — meaning 
that Webster wished to show his independence by presenting himself as 
the star of Lost In London. Because of a dream that he would die while 
acting in it, he put on a rustic piece, The Hop Pickers, instead and missed 
his chance. 

Boucicault was " still too exhausted " to act, or so he said, but he 
made a sudden recovery in September on being conceded terms equal 
to partnership in management. The Colleen Bawn was brought back 
and The Octoroon was at last announced, though even now " accidental 
occurrences " at rehearsals delayed performances. On the first night 
in the November of 1861 the playbills tried to excite interest in it by 
describing how, during Boucicault's stay in Louisiana, a white man who 
wanted to marry an octoroon " opened a vein in his arm and intro- 
duced into it a few drops of his mistress's blood ", so that he could make 
oath that he had black blood in his veins. Next an " episode from Slave 
history " was quoted to show how a Kentucky planter's lovely daughter 
came home from Boston at his death, only to be inventoried because of 
a negro strain she had not suspected ; she drowned herself after she had 
been sold. Early December playbills became more and more eloquent 
as it became more and more evident that the piece had failed. Then 


The Octoroon (Adelphi, 1861) : The Slave Market 

the Adelphi presented The Colleen Bawn and The Octoroon as a double 
bill. In response to many letters entreating that the unhappy ending of 
The Octoroon should be modified — or so Boucicault said — the playbills 
announced a new last act of the drama, " composed by the public and 
edited by the author ". 

Signs of trouble increased in 1862. Agnes Robertson dropped out; 
her husband, too, was absent occasionally. A new and original drama 
by him was predicted one week in June, only to be cancelled by another 
outburst on the playbills which stated that Mr. Dion Boucicault, while 
claiming to be a partner of Mr. Webster, had " transferred his services 
and Drama to a rival establishment in the immediate neighbourhood ", 
which meant Drury Lane for The Colleen Bawn with The Relief Of 
Lucknow lined up for the autumn. After airing the quarrel at length, 
Webster announced " in self-defence " the 331st performance of The 
Colleen Bawn and added, " Shortly will be produced a new and original 
drama called Jessie Brown; or, The Relief Of Lucknow " . But Bouci- 
cault had guarded against this long ago : his drama of the Indian Mutiny 
had been given a copyright performance at Plymouth in 1858. Lack- 
ing any sensation scene, it served now merely as a stop-gap until Old 
Drury's Christmas pantomime went into rehearsal. Then Boucicault 
had to find some other house. In a letter to The Times he offered 
^5,000 toward providing London with a theatre as well-appointed as 
the Winter Garden in New York — puff preliminary to a season at 
Astley's circus, on the south side of Westminster Bridge, which he 


transformed into the Theatre Royal, Westminster, with stalls separated 
from the stage by fountains playing in a shrubbery where the sawdust 
ring had been. The Trial OfEffie Deans was billed in the January of 
1863 . As his success in dealing with managers had not taught him how 
to be a success as manager himself, he lost all he had and Astley's be- 
came Astley's once more. 

Losing your all was not then a very serious matter to theatre man- 
agers. Webster had to be " saved " at frequent intervals although his 
enterprise was amazing. Professor Dircks had invented — or so it was 
generally believed, though his idea is explained in a volume of an 
earlier date — the optical illusion commemorated in the catch-phrase 
" all done by mirrors ". It was adapted by Professor Pepper for use in 
theatres and became known as Pepper's Ghost. 1 The Adelphi play- 
bills in the July of 1863 promised that in between the farce and the 
burlesque, " At Eight o'clock will be produced, at a vast expense, in 
consequence of the Extraordinary Machinery and the appliances 
requisite for the marvellous new Spectral Effects, (which are the pro- 
perty of this theatre only, and duly Registered), a Drama in Three 
Tableaux, to be called The Ghost's Bargain, founded on the popular story 
of that name, written by Charles Dickens, Esq." 

That was outdone when Kate Bateman, at the reopening of the 
Adelphi for the winter season in the October of 1863, illustrated in 
Leah, " a phasis in the history of Christian nations of which now, 
happily, the last vestige has disappeared from our own annals, but 
which on the Continent, and especially in some parts of Germany, 
subsisted to a very recent period, namely, the persecution and the 
oppression of the Jewish race ". Gauze waters, burning ships, railway 
accidents, stone quarries, were all forgotten, and for 210 nights every- 
body rushed to shudder and weep over a vengeful and broken- 
hearted Jewess. In Leah, The Forsaken, adapted by Augustin Daly 
from the German, the heroine has a Gentile lover who jilts her. Leah 
curses him. When befriended by his wife she blesses him instead. 

Still drawing from his American bag, Boucicault put on a play at the 
St. James's and failed. In despair he pulled out a pot-boiler, adapted 
from the French, about the murder of a man for his wealth, the suffer- 
ings of his bereft family in a snowstorm, and the villain's attempt to 
destroy the man who knows his secret by burning down the tenement 
where he sleeps. What had been The Poor Of New York became The 
Poor Of Liverpool for a try-out at Liverpool, then The Poor Of Leeds for 

1 Seventy years later this was again announced in London as a novelty. In 
rivalry with the new talking-films the Holborn Empire presented a programme 
of " films without the use of a screen " — Pepper's Ghosts. 


a try-out at Leeds, and next The Streets Of London for a season at the 
Princess's in the summer of 1864. Thanks to the sensation of a house 
on fire across the whole breadth of the stage, this restored his fortune. 
No successor was needed until the following spring, when his thoughts 
turned to the Ireland of chivalrous conflict between soldiers and rebels 
while black-hearts betray their kin for gold, land and love. His 
patriotic urge was not unconnected with the fact that Edmund Falconer, 
another Irish actor, had just proved such patriotism to be profitable. 

The Poor of New York (New York, 1857) 

By playing in The Colleen Bawn, Falconer had acquired faith in Irish 
drama. He was born in Dublin in 18 14 and went on the stage almost 
as soon as he could walk. In his twenties he was a leading man at 
Worcester and at Liverpool. After appearing in a play of his own at 
Sadler's Wells he became manager of the Lyceum, where he presented 
his Peep Day; or, Savourneen Deelish in the November of 1 861. It 
told a tale of the " Peep o' Day " boys, Protestant bands who fought 
Catholic Defenders at the end of the eighteenth century. Purcell, a 
middleman's son, incriminates Harry Kavanagh as a " Peep o' Day " 
boy and has him transported for seven years, lures Kathleen Kavanagh 
into a mock marriage, and distrains on their old mother for rent before 
she dies of a broken heart. When he plans to abduct Mary Grace, 
Harry's betrothed, and marry her by force, he arranges for Kathleen to 
be murdered in the old quarry. Harry, descending the path from upper 
flies, grasps a tree-top and swings himself down. 

In Arrah-na-Pogue ; or, The Wicklow Wedding, first played at Dublin 
in the autumn of 1864, Boucicault provided himself with the part of 


Shaun the Post, whose lively wit made him a London favourite at the 
Princess's in the March of 1865. Arrah Meelish visits her foster- 
brother, Beamish M'Coul, in prison, where he is under sentence of 
death for taking part in the rebellion of 1798. While kissing him she 
pushes into his mouth the letter (with details of a plan for his liberation) 
which gained for her the name of Arrah of the Kiss. When she is 
about to be married to Shaun, Beamish waylays Feeney, government 
inspector of his confiscated estates, robs him and gives stolen notes to 
Arrah. To save her, Shaun declares that he committed the robbery 
and is sentenced to death. While breaking out of his prison in Dublin 
Castle, he fights Feeney and flings him down to his death in the power- 
ful " sensation scene " of an ivy-clad tower, which sinks (like scarlet- 
runners in the pantomime o£]ack And The Beanstalk) to show Shaun' s 
climb from the window of his cell to the summit. In Paris Jean De La 
Poste ; ou, Les Noces Irlandaises ran at the Gaite for 140 nights. 

It was during Boucicault's season at the Princess's that the Fenians 
organized their reign of terror. On the afternoon of 13 December, 
1865, a cask of gunpowder, fired close to the wall of Clerkenwell Prison 
to liberate Irish prisoners, caused nearly a score of deaths and 100 severe 
injuries. That night another Irish song was substituted at the Princess's 
for " The Wearing o' the Green ". The Prince of Wales was present. 
After the performance he went to Boucicault's dressing-room, and 
asked casually, sitting on a table and smoking a cigar, " Boucicault, are 
you a Fenian? " Dion replied, " No, sir, I am not a Fenian, but I am 
an Irishman ". 

A drama " from the pen — or desk " of Tom Taylor tried to trade on 
antipathies and failed. The Whiteboy, at the Olympic the next year, 
was a tale of Minister just before the rebellion of '98. It was described 
as an elaborate satire upon Ireland and the Irish. The hero was a 
drunken idler who called himself a patriot to cover his illicit operations 
in the " potheen " trade. The rest of the " bhoys " were " rattling, 
roaring " blades, all more or less idle, brutal and venal. 

One week's work in which he took no pride, and on a play in which 
he had no faith, brought Boucicault a profit of -£3,000 and put his name 
for a time to Rip Van Winkle ; or, The Sleep Of Twenty Years, a master- 
piece among melodramas. He did it at the entreaty of Joseph Jefferson, 
who had reached London on his way home to America after a world 
tour of four or five years. " While the work was in progress I made 
an engagement with Benjamin Webster to act the part at his theatre, 
the Adelphi ", says Jefferson in all innocence. At the reading both 
author and manager were absent. There seemed, he decided, to have 
been an old feud between them, " and I presume they did not desire to 


meet ". At a dress rehearsal some slight hitch caused Boucicault to 
launch forth against Webster and the Adelphi with great energy. He 
denounced the whole establishment, cited the present mistake as typical 
of the imbecility of the management, and left angrily. Webster, who 
had been sitting behind the curtains of a private box, set it down in 
writing that no play of Boucicault should ever be acted in his theatre 
and left likewise. Jefferson set off by cab in pursuit until he saw the old 
manager striding up the steps of his home with the very back of his coat 
in a rage. The housekeeper said her master had just gone upstairs and 
at that moment a door banged with an angry thud " that echoed 
through the old house like the ominous thunder that precedes a storm ". 
Jefferson found Webster pale, his black wig — one of those unmistakable 
articles with a hard parting on one side and a strong tendency to get 
away from the back of his head — awry. His grey eyes, wonderfully 
expressive, " snapped with the reaction of temper ". There was a 
long, stormy scene, but Jefferson won the right to open the following 
Monday, 4 September, 1865, and from that day Rip Van Winkle 
revealed its ability to last a life-time. 

Its warm sense of humanity holds out interest even more than its 
astonishing stagecraft, which turns one passage of Washington Irving's 
prose into a whole act of drama — in particular the monologue in the 
Catskill Mountains, spoken by Rip to his absent dog, to the trees, to 
the stranger who gets him to carry a keg, to himself when he sees Hud- 
son's crew : " My, my, I don't like that kind of people at all ; No, sir ! 
I don't like any sech kind. I like that old gran'father worse than any of 
them. How was you, old gentleman? I didn't mean to intrude on 
you, did I? What? I'll tell you how it was; I met one of your 
gran' children, I don't know which is the one — they're all so much 
alike." Twenty years later, when his daughter is being forced into a 
loveless marriage by her step-father, Rip saves her by pulling out a paper 
which proves the house to be his — an ending which turns a remarkable 
work into a conventional play. 

During the autumn season of 1866, Boucicault was occupying three 
theatres and there were rumours of others to follow. The Lyceum had 
been taken for his The Long Strike, which made bubble-and-squeak out 
of any number of plays by others. What he added was a telegraph 
office. " Too late ", the heroine is told, but in the midst of her despair 
the bell of the instrument rings — telegraphic communication with 
Liverpool has been re-established ! This was a great climax, for topical 
appeal magnified the tinkle into a tocsin. The horse-racing of circus- 
spectacles inspired Boucicault's drama at the Holborn — built on what 
had been the post-office stable-yard, part of Jockey's Fields, between 


Holborn and Bedford Row — and here Flying Scud ; or, A Four-Legged 
Fortune : Showing The Ups And Downs, Crosses, Double Crosses, Events 
And Vicissitudes Of Life On The Turf brought to the stage that soon 
familiar story of attempts to dope the Derby winner, surrounded by 
" dodgers, dons and diddlers, flunkeys, fools and fiddlers ". 

One chance " the busy Dion B " missed. Not he, but his Irish rival, 
Edmund Falconer, found that even Her Majesty's — the great opera 
house in the Haymarket — was ready for melodrama. His Oonagh ; or, 
The Lovers Of Lisnamora, blending one of Miss Edgeworth's novels 
with Carleton's " Fardourougha, the Miser," opened there in the 
November of 1866. It told the usual story of Ribbonmen in five acts, 
each with three or four scenes that included a hay field with real hay- 
makers. There were thirty-four characters besides supers; it began 
with an address by the author and lasted five hours ; half an hour after 
midnight, what was left of the audience had some idea that the curtain 
might at last be about to fall when stage-carpenters pulled the carpet 
from under the actors' feet. But that majestic building did not long 
survive. It was gutted by fire in 1867. 

Falconer embarked on a tour of the United States only to find that 
a new standard for sensations had been set by Daly at the Worrell 
Sisters' Theatre, New York, in 1867, with Under The Gaslight; or, Life 
And Love In These Times. That title was justified the moment the 
curtain rose on the Courtlands' elegant home : through a window the 
now could be seen by the light of a street-lamp as Ray, one of New 
York's " bloods ", visited Laura Courtland, the belle of society. That 
she is an adopted child, once a little ragged pickpocket, he learns from 
Pearl Courtland — " pretty but no heart ", as the programme informs 
us. Social disgrace follows, and Laura earns her own living by 
colouring photographs until Byke, " whom the law is always reaching 
for and never touches ", kidnaps her. His claim to be her father is up- 
held in the Tombs police-court. Ray follows them to Pier 30, North 
River, where — with Jersey City by starlight for background — Laura is 
flung into the water ; Ray dives after her and holds her until a patrol- 
boat approaches. Back in the Courtlands' elegant home, she learns 
that, owing to an interchange of babies in their cradles, she, not Pearl, 
is the daughter of the house. Rather than allow this disclosure to be 
made and be the cause of any suffering that would result, Laura leaves 
at once, trudges to a remote railway station where no more trains will 
be stopping that night, and accepts the shelter offered her by the signal- 
man in his store when he goes off duty, though this means that she has 
to be locked in. Through the barred window she witnesses the pre- 
parations for a fearful crime : an old servant, Snorkey, who has come 


in search of her, is lassooed by Byke, who binds him hand and foot, and 
then lays him on the permanent way out of revenge for the part he has 
played in disclosing the secret of Laura's birth. This is the sensation : 

Byke (fastening him to the rails) I'm going to put you to bed. You 
won't toss much. In less than ten minutes you'll be sound asleep. 
There, how do you like it ? You'll get down to the Branch before 
me, will you? You dog me and play the eavesdropper, eh ! Now 
do it, if you can. When you hear the thunder under your head 
and see the lights dancing in your eyes, and feel the iron wheel a 
foot from your neck, remember Byke. (Exit L.) 

Laura O, Heavens ! he will be murdered before my eyes ! How 
can I aid him? 

Snorkey Who's that? 

Laura It is I. Do you not know my voice ? 

Snorkey That I do, but I almost thought I was dead and it was an 
angel's. Where are you? 

Laura In the station. 

Snorkey I can't see you, but I can hear you. Listen to me, miss, for 
I've only got a few minutes to live. 

Laura (shaking door) And I cannot aid you. 

Snorkey Never mind me, miss ; I might as well die now, and here, 
as at any other time. I'm not afraid. I've seen death in almost 
every shape, and none of them scare me ; but, for the sake of those 
you love, I would live. Do you hear me? 

Laura Yes ! Yes ! 

Snorkey They are on the way to your cottage — Byke and Judas — to 
rob and murder. 

Laura (in agony) O, I must get out ! (Shakes window-bars). What 
shall I do? 

Snorkey Can't you burst the door? 

Laura It is locked fast. 

Snorkey Is there nothing in there? No hammer? no crowbar? 

Laura Nothing (Faint steam whistle heard in distance). Oh, Heavens ! 
The train ! (Paralysed for an instant). The axe ! ! ! 

Snorkey Cut the woodwork ! Don't mind the lock, cut round it. 
How my neck tingles ! (A blow at door is heard). Courage ! 
(Another) Courage! (The steam whistle heard again — nearer, and 
rumble of train on track — another blow). That's a true woman. 
Courage ! (Noise of locomotive heard, with whistle. A last blow — 
the door swings open, mutilated, the lock hanging — and Laura appears, 
axe in hand.) 


Under the Gaslight (New York, 1867) 

Snorkey Here — quick ! (She runs and unfastens him. The locomotive 
lights glare on scene). Victory! Saved! Hooray! (Laura leans 
exhausted against switch) . And these are the women who ain't to 
have a vote ! 

(As Laura takes his head from the track, the train of cars rushes past 

with roar and whistle from L. to R.) 

Preparations had to be made at once for a season in London. Know- 
ing the difficulties concerning copyright, which could be secured only 
by a performance in England, Daly arranged for his play to be seen at 
Newcastle in the April of 1868. That should have been soon enough 
to protect his interests ; but directly news of Under The Gaslight reached 
the enterprising management of the Britannia, its resident dramatist, 
Hazlewood, wrote a version of the railroad sensation as part of a 
diabolical piece of cunning to rob the American of his rewards. Instead 
of presenting it as his own work or as the work of any living author, he 
disguised it as part of a melodrama by Charles Selby who had died five 
years earlier. Accordingly Selby's London By Night ; or, The Dark Side 
Of Our Great City, was made ready for revival. Originally, as per- 
formed at the Strand in 1844, it was a mere adaptation, one among 
many, of Les Bohemiens De Paris. Much of the plot, with stirring pre- 
liminaries at a railway terminus — Victoria Station this time — was re- 
tained, but there was nothing half-hearted about Hazlewood's revision. 
It came so near to being a new play that a new licence for it had to be 
obtained from the Lord Chamberlain. (Even minor alterations were 
supposed to be submitted for censorship, but very seldom were.) In 



London by Night (Royal Strand, 1844) 

the March of 1868 Selby might well have turned in his grave to dis- 
cover that his twenty-years-old play contained spectacles uncommonly 
like those that were now the talk of both London and New York. 
Borrowings from any number of other popular plays could be recog- 
nized as the scenes changed from the Adelphi arches to Waterloo 
Bridge, from a handsomely furnished saloon in a cafe-restaurant near 
Leicester Square to a tavern concert in the Borough, where the chair- 
man hammers vigorously for " order and harmony ", and then to 
public tea-gardens in the suburbs. At last the railroad appeared in 
" The Brick Fields at Battersea ". A ne'er-do-well named Dognose 
locks his daughter in " a lone house ", before he meets his enemies, gets 
the worst of it, and is left senseless on the line. Some difference may 
be noted, but the heroine's " (in agony) Oh, I must get out " betrays 
the plagiarist : 

Louisa (in the house) All seems quiet, and yet just now fancy pic- 
tured to my mind a struggle of contending men. I hope my father 
will soon return — I was very wrong to surfer him to depart alone. 
(Goes to iron grating which forms the door.) From this spot I can wit- 
ness his approach. Ah, what is that? My eyes surely cannot 
deceive — there is some object lying across the iron road before me 
— it can never be a human being in such a dangerous position. I 
must warn them. Ah, the gate is locked — how unfortunate. The 
train will be down in ten minutes — if the poor creature is not 
sleeping, my voice may be heard. 

Dognose (feebly) Who's that? 


Louisa Heavens ! 'tis my father. 

Dognose Listen to me, and restrain your grief, for I have only five 
minutes to live. 

Louisa (shaking gate) Oh, and I cannot aid him. 

Dognose Never mind, you can avenge me. 

Louisa (in agony) Oh, I must get out (shakes gate again). 

Dognose Can't you force out a bar? — I am too weak to move. 

Louisa Lock and bars alike defy me. 

Dognose Is there nothing in there? — no hammer, no crowbar? 

Louisa Nothing (she searches in the apartment. Faint steam whistle in 
the distance). Great God! The train! (Paralysed a moment — 
resumes her search — shrieks as she discovers an axe). Heaven has not 
deserted me — courage — (strikes gate) — Courage! (The steam 
whistle is heard again nearer, and the rumble of train on the track). It 
must give. 

(Noise of train increases. A last blow — gate flies open and Louisa 
rushes to Dognose. Just as his head is removed from the track the 
train passes with a roar and a whistle.) 

This is how the scene was printed in London By Night, when published 
as one of Dick's Standard Plays, headed " First Produced at the Strand 
Theatre, January nth, 1844 ", to make stage historians suspect Daly of 
being an unconscionable liar for claiming it to have been his own 
original idea. It was some months later, the July of 1868, before Under 
The Gaslight arrived at the Whitechapel Pavilion, and in August Bouci- 
cault stole the " sensation " from it, excusing his theft by as brazen a 
piece of impudence as you will find in the records of forgery and 
plagiarism. He readily accepted the idea that Selby's old play had the 
railroad rescue in it. From this he argued that the scene must also have 
appeared in the French piece Selby had translated. Two thumping 
falsehoods justified his enterprise in robbing an author who had tried 
too late to secure the protection of the law. 

The playbills of his After Dark, A Tale Of London Life at the Princess's 
described it as the great drama by Dennery and Grange, adapted with 
their permission — a generous acknowledgment which forestalled any 
argument that less was owing to Paris than New York. When it came 
to the climax, fresh novelty was introduced by causing the railway to 
be the Underground. Instead of station-store or " lone house ", Bouci- 
cault uses the cellar, in which a hero, captured by villains, pulls down a 
wall and crawls through the brickwork to drag their victim from the 
line just before the train puffs out of its tunnel. 

By now theatre managers took less interest in pleasing the public than 


VIII Stock Poster (c. 1900) for the tour of the English version of Boucicault's The Poor of New York 

By courtesy of Messrs. Stafford & Co., Ltd. 

IX Stock Poster (c. 1900) for the tour of a dramatization of Mrs. Henry Wood's famous novel 

By courtesy of Messrs. Stafford & Co., II 


in crossing and double-crossing one another, which might be considered 
as normal rivalry had they not been engaged in demonstrating the 
triumphs of virtue. In his everlasting quest of moral precepts Hazle- 
wood picked everybody's brain — paragraphs from Dickens, " leaders " 
from newspapers, reported sermons, anything that scissors and paste 
could insert into prompt copies — and not content with these activities 
on behalf of the Britannia, he appears to have dodged his contractual 
obligations there by writing London By Gaslight for Sadler's Wells under 
the name of Miss Hazlewood. 

What Boucicault could not set before the footlights successfully was 
the novel, " Foul Play ", which he wrote with Charles Reade. This, 
adapted by F. G. Maeder for the American stage in 1867, had the sensa- 
tion scene of a " full-sized ship, 26 feet long ", going down with living 
souls aboard in full view of the audience. To protect his own interests 
Boucicault staged Foul Play in 1868 at the Holborn, where For Love, 
Tom Robertson's not dissimilar drama of the transport " Birkenhead ", 
had been seen the year before. Others besides Reade, whose Scuttled 
Ship was staged at the Olympic ten years later, tried their hands at 
adapting Boucicault's adaptation. 

Sensation took another form when he produced Formosa ; or, The 
Railroad To Ruin, with the Boat Race, at Drury Lane in the summer of 
1869. It played to crowded houses until the pantomime season, and 
afterwards went to the Princess's. Critics condemned it as an imitation 
of The Flying Scud and as immoral because the hero saw a side of life 
that inspired such protests as : For God's sake, let us leave to the French 
the exhibition of the sickly splendour and sentiment of the life of the 
courtesan ". But what had once kept people out of the theatre now 
drew them in. If Boucicault had persisted in his new course he might 
well have won the new public. Unhappily, when he was asked by 
Lord Londesborough to write either a drama or a comedy, he accepted 
his offer of carte blanche for the production but did neither. He played 
ducks and drakes with the money by mounting Babil And Bijou, 
a " spectacle of enchantment ", at Co vent Garden with reckless 
extravagance. It cost at least .£1 1,000. It failed and Boucicault made 
a " strange and unaccountable disappearance " to America, before re- 
turning to the Gaiety with The Colleen Bawn once more. 

Other revivals and fresh adaptations followed until he had written a 
new drama for Drury Lane, The Shaughraun. Reading it now leaves 
the impression of re-reading Arrah-na-Pogue, but no such complaint 
was made in 1875, for it ran for over 100 performances even in that 
large house before transferring to the Adelphi. The attraction was the 
author as Conn, the Shaughraun himself, the soul of every fair, the life 


of every funeral, the first fiddle at every wedding. Here again are 
honest rebels opposed by honest soldiers ; honest colleens opposed by 
more black-hearted police spies. Here also is a sensational escape, 
adapted from a French original : " The scene moves — pivots on a point 
at the back. The Prison moves off and shows the exterior of Tower 
with Conn clinging to the wall, and Robert creeping through the ori- 
fice," and here is the device of a man in a barrel ready with bullet to 
execute timely justice, none the worse for having done long service in 
an old drama of Jolly Jack Tars called My Poll And My Partner Joe. 
Boucicault got away with it. He was once more on his feet. 

Grief was to throw him down. Willie, his eldest son, was training 
to be a farmer in Huntingdonshire. " If anything ", Dion had said, 
" should happen to him I should die." On returning to their house 
after the last night of The Shaughraun in 1876, Mrs. Boucicault found 
her husband with his head in his hands. " I know something's the 
matter with Willie," she cried. " Where's the carriage? I must go 
to him at once." Dion started up, and shaking his right hand at her, 
shouted, " You can't go to him, woman. He is dead." After their 
loss home became unbearable. There and then Dion set out for 
America and in a frenzy wished to repudiate his marriage, even to the 
extent of trying to make his children illegitimate. In the English 
Courts his wife divorced him instead. 

Yet when he returned four years later, in 1880, to play Conn at the 
Adelphi, the welcome was kindly. In ragged red coat, with his kit 
slung across his broad back, with brown scratch wig, rouged cheeks and 
badly worn " tops ", he still looked young. His voice had lost none 
of its cheeriness, his smile none of its brightness, his wit " none of her 
thousand cunning tricks of the stage ". The gallery still applauded, 
but public taste was " not now in the same condition as when stalls, 
boxes and gallery applauded his Irish dramas to the echo ". Better 
things were expected of his new play The O'Doivd. Its fate was 
recorded in manifestoes which deceived no one. " In my dramatic 
pictures of Irish life ", he begins, " you have perceived a desire extend- 
ing beyond the object of theatrical success." Now his new play sought 
to remove " the prejudice that we are a thriftless race of good-humoured 
paupers ". Certain scenes, he said, provoked expressions of displeasure 
but he declined to alter them. " Rather than lose the favour of any of 
his audience," the author would amend his error by withdrawing it 

Back at Wallack's he still turned out plays, including The Omadhaun 
— in London another author used this title for another version of the 
same French play — and the leading part was played by Dion G. 


Boucicault, his second son, with whom he went to Australia. Bouci- 
cault and his second wife, Louise Thorndyke, came to London in 1886. 
With fantastic bad taste they appeared in a new play which he called 

At the time of his death in 1890 several of his plays were always to 
be found somewhere, either under the titles he gave them with his name 
attached or in disguise. The Streets Of London, the most regularly 
played of all, was looked upon as anybody's property. The Shaughraun, 
on the other hand, was treated like a classic by younger actors in the 
touring companies that were replacing the old stock companies because 
of cheap travel by rail. Later it became evident that he would be 
remembered by The Colleen Bawn alone. 

3 The Sins of Society 

Black Sheep 

"I TAKE my subject in a dream : he takes his in reality. I work with 
my eyes closed : he works with his eyes open. I shrink from the world 
at my elbows : he identifies himself with it. I draw : he photo- 
graphs." So the great Dumas compared himself with his son. By 
" dream " he meant romance which had begun to wither and was 
spoken of tenderly ; it was now inherently respectable, rather dull. 
All the excitement was over. Realism, which was denounced on all 
sides, flourished. The public, like a disobedient child, was doing 
exactly what it was told not to do by dramatic critics who wrote ser- 
mons in the newspapers which they called, with unconscious humour, 
their " pulpits ". More probably the people who went to see the plays 
characterized as " too " (preceding some colourless adjective or other) 
were the very people who exercised the contemporary zest for con- 
demnation, but when the modern reader tries to discover what justified 
those moral outbursts he feels that the cry of murder has been raised 
over a dead rabbit. Pious wrath against Captain Macheath's misdeeds 
in The Beggar's Opera is the soul of reason compared with exposure of 
iniquity in the bland, unmeaning story-telling of Tom Taylor. 
" Whether the scene of Mr. Taylor's comedies or dramas be laid in the 
Neilgherry Hills, or on a reef in the Red Sea, or in an English borough, 
the cloven foot of French parentage or suggestion is still distinctly 
visible," nagged a family newspaper on its many breakfast-tables. 
" This is bad enough; but it is definitely worse when we find that his 
dramatic productions show successively a stronger leaven of the radically 
immoral and shameless cynicism which disfigures the modern French 
productions. Mr. Taylor has betaken himself to the agreeable task of 
painting English society as a compact circle of swindlers and demi-reps, 
which occasionally opens to admit a few fools." 

Search for Ins shamelessly cynical plots finds nothing worse than 
Still Waters Run Deep at the Olympic in 1855. The quiet husband is 
taken for a fool and the rakish Captain he outwits is a rascal. It is as 
sentimental as a novelette. With similar imiocence, Taylor's New 




Men And Old Acres at the Haymarket in 1 869, upheld the constitution 
of English society against the new rich. By comparison there was 
Black Sheep, written by Edmund Yates (from his novel) and Palgrave 
Simpson, for Ben Webster's Olympic season in 1868. This, made in 
England by English dramatic critics, does show a compact circle of 
swindlers and demi-reps which opens to admit a few fools. More- 
over, unlike anything ever written by Taylor, it takes no unkindly view 
of sinners. That the criminal and his wife should have been played by 
Charles James Mathews and his second wife (he married Mrs. Daven- 
port while in America the year following the death of his first wife, 
Madame Vestris) is proof that they claimed sympathy instead of dis- 
approval for their crimes. What is regarded by Stewart Routh (the 
part Mathews played) as living by your wits, includes murder. What 
his devoted Harriet regards as a wife's duty, includes a scheme that will 
let the noose fall round the neck of the innocent youth who chival- 
rously trusts her. The purpose is to show how selfless loyalty, thinking 
no sacrifice of morals too great, can exist in lives of ruthlessly immoral 
squalor. The play is amoral. Nothing else in all the popular enter- 
tainment of the 1860s resembles it. 

While realism meant (to his contemporaries) romance in soiled 
clothes, Yates here denied the whole universe of Blacks and Whites, 
the whole vision of human nature as a chequered board of vices and 
virtues. Even when Routh decides to desert his wife for a wealthy 
American widow, he still speaks, unmelo dramatically, like a normal 
human being, and while the youth is being tried for murder Harriet 
appears not as a callous monster but as love's martyr — " I think you 

Still Waters Run Deep (Olympic, 1855) 


ought to know," she says to Stewart as she helps him to cheat the 
gallows, " I shall live only as long as I know you are still living." No 
outcry was raised, but an attempt was made to consign this piece of 
dramatized free-thinking to oblivion. " The Life of Charles James 
Mathews " (autobiographical) dismisses Black Sheep thus, " The next 
few years were passed in the regular routine of engagements in London 
and country towns, and offer little or nothing of general interest." 
Mathews omitted it from the list of plays in his career, and Mrs. 
Mathews did likewise. Yates and Simpson had denied their faith in 
the code of virtue triumphant. That was unforgivable even though 
the public were tiring of it and finding relief from the monotony of 
melodrama in variants that reflected the changing conditions of life. 

Comfort, born of the strong sense of financial security, was creating 
a new sin and new punishment. The sin was not to know your place 
in society and the punishment was to lose it. What that meant can be 
understood by contrasting the squalor out of doors with the warmth 
within. Dickens did not exaggerate London's murk, nor the utter 
misery of its homeless. When " Bleak House " came out in monthly 
numbers between the March of 1852 and the September of 1853 it was 
dramatized only at unfashionable theatres — except in New York, where 
Brougham's version immediately appeared at Wallack's with the 
author and Laura Keene as the Deadlocks. There was at first no such 
eagerness to play Jo as there had been to play Oliver Twist, and con- 
sidering how very effective the young " hunted animal " was to be on 
the stage twenty years later, the reason may be that Dickens' moral was 
too near home. Half-starved children were still sweeping crossings in 
all but the main thoroughfares where the new horse-drawn rollers * had 
done them out of a living. Canals of mud rolled slowly over the bul- 
warks of sweepings, to use Albert Smith's words, as fast as besoms could 
brush the flood back again. 

Where did these poor little urchins come from? The answer, in 
Sala's " Twice Round the Clock ", is dated 1859 and it holds good for 
another ten, if not twenty, years. St. Giles's was supposed to have been 
done away with ; splendid streets were said to have taken its place. 
Sala, walking through them from Covent Garden to Bedford Square, 
saw the gibbering forms of men and women in filthy rags, shock hair 
beginning just above the eyebrows, gashes filled with yellow fangs for 
teeth. Children, wolfish by privation, fought and screamed, whim- 

1 A query from the publisher makes me realize that this word is obsolete. 
The " roller " for street-cleaning, still in use in the early hours in some parts of 
London, is a circular brush to fit half the width of the roadway. It is fixed 
diagonally so as to roll refuse to the gutter. 


pered and crawled, more ragged, dirty and wretched than their elders. 
Naturally the theatres situated in the slums between Wych Street and 
Tottenham Street preferred Uncle Tom to Jo. Playgoers in the 1860s 
would be harrowed by the make-believe death of the crossing-sweeper 
on the stage, knowing full well that they would see somebody un- 
commonly like Jo just beyond the lighted portico outside. 

The Victorian black-out rigorously shut all that out. Home-life was 
the greater part of life. Strict obedience was demanded and yielded 
to the head of the household. The children had to stay young until 
wedded and then grow suddenly up, which system divided people into 
the belatedly young and the prematurely aged. Every home, with its 
ruler who rewarded virtue and punished vice, strove to be a self- 
contained universe. 

The " evening out " was a rare event, though parents were beginning 
to be scandalized by the " spread " of it. The boom in public amuse- 
ments, far greater than the boom caused by the first gas-lit street-lamps 
at the beginning of the century, came from light at night. That ever- 
ready help in such enquiries, Haydn's " Dictionary of Dates ", reports : 
" It was said in i860, that of the gas supply of London a leakage of 9 per 
cent, took place through the faulty joints of the pipes ". No wonder 
old playgoers lamented that what they missed in the modern drama was 
the smell of gas, the characteristic odour of Victorian London — particu- 
larly the Surrey side, where it was feloniously "tapped" — though 
there were many strong local rivals for their nostrils' favour. On the 
darkest night the Cockney would know where he was by the unmis- 
takable scents of pickle-factories, jam-factories, breweries, soap-works 
and Thames. Also there was enough soot to be the flour of this 
atmospheric duff, thus inspissating the gloom which enabled leonine- 
headed paterfamilias, in all the personal grandeur of his Crimean 
whiskers and the glow of good fellowship, to keep his womenfolk in- 
doors, to bestow his hospitality regularly upon prospective sons-in-law 
for solving problems of microcosmic over-population, and to keep the 
outside world outside. When he went to the theatre he took his 
family with him. His insistence that the drama must be moral, his 
outbursts when he thought it was not, sprang from his dread lest any- 
thing should offend the ears of the young. Melodrama catered for the 
family party. 

Who would venture out alone ? Market-porters lay in wait to cut 
off stragglers from Covent Garden Opera, and the Olympic was 
" another nasty place to leave after the performance, except in a cab ". 
In dimly lighted Drury Lane and Newcastle Street ruffians were always 
ambushed in stench. Domestic dictatorship had to be endured by all 


except spirits so hardy as to be suspected of criminal tendencies them- 
selves. In ' ' Vanity Fair ' ' Becky Sharp shows what happened to them ; 
she was not content to sit behind drawn curtains and pity the poor 
people whose footsteps she could faintly hear outside, not content to 
take whatever place might be found for her by well-ordered firesides 
amid the encircling smut-laden gloom ; she asked too much of life 
and therefore doomed herself to mix with " Bohemians, awful 
people " on the Continent, according to Thackeray's farewell glimpse 
of her. In all shapes and sizes, under all kinds of names, Becky Sharp 
henceforth remained the favourite character in fiction of nineteenth- 
century England. She had to be heavily disguised so that nobody 
should recognize her, but she was always so plainly Society's outlaw 
that the wonder is she was regularly regarded as a brand-new fashion. 

Naturally there was a companion picture. The social outlaw who 
sinned and was doomed to an unhappy ending could always be con- 
trasted with the innocent outlaw who was without offence and there- 
fore on her way to a happy ending. This one comes from Lord 
Lytton. " Night and Morning ", the novel he wrote in 1841, espouses 
the cause of social rebels. Gawtrey is one because of Fanny, child of 
the woman he loved before Lord Lilborne seduced her. Philip Beau- 
fort is another because he has been robbed of his rightful heritage by 
Lord Lilborne's brother-in-law. Gawtrey is killed by the police. 
Fanny, without his protection, is kidnapped, but the scrap of paper she 
takes from a secret drawer in order to send a message to Philip, proves 
his legitimacy. They marry. 

In New York this tale began a brand of stage realism that can be 
labelled " The Sins of Society ". Brougham, who dramatized it, was 
cherished in America as the most winning proof of the powers of 
blarney on the stage. He was born in 18 10 in Dublin; he was edu- 
cated at Trinity College and walked the Peter Street hospital. He first 
acted in Tom And Jerry in Tottenham Street, went to Covent Garden, 
became manager of the Lyceum and left for America, where he took 
Lytton's story for his play, Night And Morning ; or, She's Very Like 
Her Mother 1 at Wallace's in 1845 with Lester as the hero and himself as 
Gawtrey. Brougham played snakes-and-ladders with fortune, running 
theatres under his own name at one time and being glad of " stock " 
engagements at others. As a playwright he kept three careers going 
more or less concurrently. He constantly adapted Dickens in order to 
exhibit his own powers in character, so that his Domhey And Son con- 

1 Dion Boucicault's Night And Morning at the Gaiety in 1872 was an adaptation 
oiLaJoie Fait Peur by Madame de Girardin, adapted at the Lyceum in 1854 as 
Sunshine Through Clouds. 



Captain Cuttle (New York, 1850) 

sisted of odd persons floating around Captain Cuttle ; he was acclaimed 
as the nineteenth-century Aristophanes because of the light satire in his 
burlesques ; his third achievement, which consisted of making known 
what went on in society, was not so handsomely acknowledged, but his 
output in this category was vast. In his own Vanity Fair he played 
Rawdon Crawley. He adapted Jane Eyre for Laura Keene with a back- 
ground of dowagers who treated the unprotected governess with 
violent contempt and " bloods " who affronted her with unveiled 
compliments : 

Lord Ingram She's a magnificent creature, Dent, by Jove ! Let's 
have a close look at her — (Dent and Ingram walk round Jane with 
quizzing glasses) — Bears close inspection too, by Jove ! 

Colonel Dent Yes, as close as you can get — those eyes are dangerous, 
too near. 

When the wedding was disturbed by the escape of Rochester's wife 
and he commanded, " Proceed with the ceremony ", bigamy obtained 
the freedom of the stage. It had been mentioned before without 
embarrassment, and Charlotte Bronte had not been branded for allow- 
ing her heroine to fall in love with a married man. In 1864 Tennyson 
went further, since the wife of Enoch Arden married again with the 
first husband still living. 

We cannot leave Brougham without mentioning his services to the 
stage in blowing up ships. His The Miller Of New Jersey ; or, The 
Prison Hulk, seen by New York in 1858, was about the miller's daring 



release of prisoners from the hulk, which then exploded. This climax 
was still more resounding in his The Lottery Of Life at Wallack's in 
1867 with himself as the Irish hero. The last scene shows ferry and 
boathouse. Beyond is a ship made of block tin with transparent port- 
holes, foresails furled, and rigging prepared with turpentine. The 
ferry puts off. Then the villain soliloquizes, " The drunkenness of an 
insatiate vengeance fills me with a sense of devilish joy — cries of despair 
and death are ringing in my ears ". He fires the ship too soon, and 
falls cursing as it explodes and partly sinks by the hull. 

The Lottery of Life (New York, 1867) 

4 The Woman Novelist 

East Lynne 

THE Woman Novelist means Mrs. Henry Wood and Miss Braddon 
in the first flush of best-sellerdom. Respectable people who exacted 
obedience from their own daughters, wondered what on earth other 
parents were doing to allow their daughters to put such stuff into print. 
Fathers then came down leisurely to breakfast, wearers of the velvet 
smoking-cap in the glorious heyday of the middle classes. The news- 
paper was propped up before them with marmalade pot and toastrack. 
It was " the breakfast-table ", not a running-buffet. While servants 
brushed silk hat and rolled umbrella, clerks in a city office were opening 
letters, filling ink-wells and dusting the shiny horsehair sofa for the 
afternoon nap. The telephone was nothing more than the subject of 
Professor Papper's lecture before the Queen at the Polytechnic and of a 
musical demonstration at the Queen's Theatre in Long Acre. A mere 
thousand or two a year enabled a burgher to live like a bashaw. Such 
a lordly way of beginning the day is now so strange that it has inspired 
the story of the navvies who comment, as the master is escorted from 
his door, " 'E don't 'arf come out of the 'ouse, don't 'e? " In the 1860s 
anyone who was comfortably off did not half come out of the house, 
and before that momentous event took place, perfect peace, with loved 
ones far away in the nursery or kitchen, enabled him to read attacks on 
that old subject the new woman, which could be measured more by the 
page than by the column. Prosperity's cornucopia became a mega- 
phone for such daily phrases as, "I don't know what the country is 
coming to ". The type cannot be ignored. As the most opulent 
playgoer his power over the theatre was unchallenged. 

Some of his annoyance was caused by the eldest daughter of Thomas 
Price, head of one of the leading glove-manufacturing firms in 
Worcester; she married Henry Wood, whose interest was shipping. 
With her first novel, " Danesbury House ", in i860, she gained a prize 
of ;£ioo offered by the Scottish Temperance League for the best 
illustration of the best effects of Temperance. The next year she wrote 
" East Lynne ", which was by contemporary standards far from 



temperate, for though Lady Isabel and her Little Willie recall Mrs. Haller 
and her small William in The Stranger, the measure of privacy allotted 
to each erring wife is altogether different. When Mrs. Haller appears 
her sins are past. In Lady Isabel's story that past is present. She elopes 
with Captain Levison when driven frantic by her husband's secret con- 
versations with Barbara Hare, not knowing that these are solely con- 
cerned with Richard Hare's efforts to shield himself from a charge of 
murder. There is a divorce. Lady Isabel, betrayed, lets it be thought 
that she is dead. Under the name of Madame Vine she returns to her 
old home disguised as a governess 1 to watch over her son until he dies. 
After justice has claimed Levison she also dies, because for her there can 
be no happy ending. 

Since dramas of society had become the vogue in New York, it was 
natural that the first plays of East Lynne should be seen there. From 
1856, when Matilda Heron staged Camille ; or, The Fate Of A Co- 
quette (her own version of La Dame Aux Camelias), leading ladies of 
America saw themselves in roles of great suffering. It was the elegance 
of Camille which told. Armand Duval receives the camellia from her 
in a sumptuous apartment, while the Count de Varville is dismissed. 
After the lovers' brief hour of happiness in their country house, before 
she sacrifices herself by returning to the Count, they meet again in 
another splendid house where Armand throws a shower of notes and 
gold upon her as she falls at his feet. She dies poorly furnished but still 
with a birthday present from some dear old duke. " Other parts she 
acted, this one she lived ", a critic said of Matilda Heron, soon famous 
for her playing of lost women. Now came the chance for her rivals. 
Lucille Western paid Clifton W. Tayleure one hundred dollars for an 
East Lynne which was her starring vehicle for life. At matinees in the 
January of 1862, the appeal of the heroine with the cry of, " To be for 
ever an outcast from society ", was so strong that when put on at the 
Winter Garden fourteen months later the management signed a con- 
tract that bestowed half the gross receipts upon the leading lady. Rival 
versions included Edith ; or, The Earl's Daughter, by B. Woolff, which 
Matilda Heron acted at Niblo's in the December of 1862. 

The American East Lynne which has been printed is an odd mixture. 
The serious scenes are written by somebody as ill acquainted with the 
theatre as with actuality. " Carpenter scenes " where discomfiture of 
villainy is used as comic relief are written by somebody who knows the 
theatre only too well. In the small space before a frontcloth-landscape 
while the scene for Little Willie's death is being set, Sir Francis Levison 

1 Similar ideas occur in La Gouvemante (1747), Norman's Love ; or, Kate 
Wynsley, the Cottage Girl (1845), Jessy Vere ; or, the Return of the Wanderer (1856). 



Camille, or, The Fate of a Coquette, American 
version of La Dame Aux Camillas (1856) 

walks hurriedly about until he encounters Cornelia Carlyle, the steely 
sister-in-law whose enmity drove Lady Isabel to despair. The 
dialogue runs : 

Miss C. You dare lift your hat to me ? Have you forgotten that I am 
Miss Carlyle ? 

Levison It would be a hard matter to forget the face, having once 
seen it. 

Miss C. You contemptible worm, I despise you ! Do you think I am 
to be insulted with impunity ? Out upon you for a bold, bad man. 

Officer Francis Levison, I arrest you — you are my prisoner. 

Levison Hands off, vermin ! You are too familiar on short acquain- 

The model of all that is suave in murderers and seducers makes his 
exit with, " Goody-day, angelic Miss Carlyle, loveliest of your sex. 
I'm sorry this agreeable little comfort was cut so short. I'll come back 
and renew it in the morning. Take care of your precious self, and 
look out for the naughty, naughty men — ta-ta-ta-ta." To which the 
sinister Cornelia, proverbial for venom in the repressed, retorts by 
calling after the policeman* " Be sure to get his photograph taken. It 
will be an excellent picture for the rogue's gallery " — stock gag for 
" dames " in Christmas pantomimes. 

Less appeal to the heart and more to the nerves was made by Miss 
Braddon. Her literary career began in 1854 when she went, at the age 
of seventeen, with her mother to an old farmhouse near Beverley. Her 


" fugitive pieces " about flowers and. trees and heroines of history in the 
Beverley Recorder were admired by a local printer, who made her the 
spirited offer of £10 for a story to be published as Penny Dreadfuls. 
In a preface he declared that the pure love which animated the heroine's 
breast was of the kind " which makes the youth of England able to 
overcome every obstacle, and has been one of the primary causes of 
our national greatness ". 

Round about the age of twenty-five, the author was pubhshing three 
novels a year. " Lady Audley's Secret ", the last of 1862, and " Aurora 
Floyd ", the first of 1863, made one plot serve twice by reversing blacks 
and whites. Both novels are dominated by women of decisive 
character who are well and bigamously married. Both the genuine 
husbands are murdered. But while Lady Audley is a homicidal 
maniac, Aurora is a falsely accused innocent ; while the husband of one 
is inoffensive, the husband of the other is a blackmailer ; while the on- 
looker in one case is merely a witness, the onlooker in the other is the 
criminal. Together these companion pictures of the Bad Bigamist and 
the Good Bigamist show how to commit the crime and how not to. 

Lady Audley, for the sake of wealth and station, takes a second hus- 
band, knowing her first husband to be still living, and so as to avoid 
the awful consequences she drowns one man and sets fire to Audley 
Court in order to burn the other. Aurora Floyd believes herself to be 
a widow before she starts her married life with the man she truly loves, 
and but for her recklessness in horse-whipping a deformed half-wit for 
his brutality to animals, nothing untoward might have occurred. His 
vindictive cunning is such that her first husband, who appears and then 
accepts a bribe to disappear, is shot in circumstances that cause suspicions 
to darken her life. As Aurora has been innocent at heart her happiness 
is assured in the end, despite what playbills announced as The Dark 
Deed Done In The Wood. 

Versions of both novels immediately swamped the stage. W. E. 
Suter came first in 1863 at the Queen's in Tottenham Street. His 
Lady Audley of 21 February was followed by a rival at the St. James's on 
28 February ; his Aurora of 4 April was preceded in March by rivals at 
the Princess's and the Adelphi, with another at the Britannia on 21 
April. According to the list of notable productions in John Parker's 
" Who's Who in the Theatre " the first stage version of" East Lynne " 
to be played in London was The Marriage Bells ; or, The Cottage On 
The Cliff at the Effingham, Whitechapel, in 1864, and the author was 
W. Archer (not to be confused with W. Archer, the critic). The first 
to be given without change of title was John Oxenford's version for 
Avonia Jones, the Australian tragediemie, at the Surrey in 1 866. There 



Blow for Blow (Holborn Theatre, 1868) 

was a burlesque of the story at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, in the 
autumn of 1869. In the January of 1873 a serious version was staged 
at the Holborn with Mrs. Vezin as Lady Isabel. Another was staged 
at Nottingham the next year, and another at the Strand in 1878. The 
craze started in 1879, when the Olympic, the Standard and Astley's all 
billed East Lynne. Lucille Western's American version came to the 
Standard in 1883. It differed from the English versions in its method 
of drawing tears ; the saddest moment, when Lady Isabel has come back 
to East Lynne in disguise to watch over her sick child, was arranged like 

Mad. V. {rising) O Heaven ! my punishment is more than I can 
bear. He has gone to bring that woman here that she may mingle 
her shallow sympathy with his deep grief. Oh if ever retribution 
came to woman, it has come to me now. I can no longer bear it. 
I shall lose my senses. O William ! in this last, dying hour try to 
think I am your mother. 

William Papa has gone for her now. 

Mad. V. No, not that woman there, not that woman. [Throws off 
cap and spectacles) Look at me, William. I am your mother ! 
[Catches him in her arms. He says " Mother "faintly, and falls back 
dead in her arms.) 


English playwrights were more ruthless. The celebrated line in the 
most popular of their plays was Lady Isabel's cry, " Dead — and never 
called me ' Mother' ". 

In an attempt to be bracketed with the Woman Novelist, Boucicault 
wrote The Two Lives Of Mary Leigh, which was tried out at Manchester 
and then billed at the St. James's in the November of 1866 as Hunted 
Down ; or, The Two Lives Of Mary Leigh. It was another drama 
" turning upon the unsavoury but popular subject of bigamy ". 
Scudamore, a fearful picture " admirable from its very fearfulness ", 
was played by Henry Irving, a young provincial actor. To save the 
situation from sameness, H. J. Byron gave Blow For Blow to the Hol- 
born in the September of 1868. A seafaring baronet, happily married 
for the second time, has the peace of his country home shattered by the 
sudden appearance of somebody he himself mistakes for his first wife, 
long given up for dead, until she is revealed as a twin sister. 

5 Cup-and-Saucer Comedy 


SINFUL dramas of society did not, in the moralizing fervour that 
raged midway through the nineteenth century, go unopposed. 
Others were almost beatifically sinless. In Paris, after six years of the 
fashion set by Dumas Jils for the seamy side of life, sheer innocence 
found a surprising champion. Octave Feuillet, 1 hitherto an active 
salesman of what English critics called " the staple of French fiction " — 
meaning sex — unexpectedly wrote a novel as pure as the maiden of 
bashful fifteen. It was entitled " Le Roman d'un Jeune Homme 
Pauvre ", and it had a hero, a wrongfully dispossessed heir, who not 
only burns the Will which would restore to him his estates, but also 
risks life and limb by leaping from a tower where his presence com- 
promises the honour of a proud beauty locked in with him for the 
night. Feuillet made a stage version which was acted in Paris in 1858. 
The next year John Oxenford, dramatic critic of The Times, turned it 
into Ivy Hall, which was acted at the Princess's and gained a place in 
theatrical annals solely because Henry Irving, engaged to make his 
first London appearance in it, broke his contract because his part was 
too small. Its American history is also peculiar. Only a few months 
before The Romance Of A Poor Young Man was ready to open at 
Wallack's, that business of burning a Will for motives of the purest 
selflessness was introduced into another play : Tom Taylor, then in New 
York, used the incident to display the virtue of the Yankee hero of his 
Our American Cousin at Laura Keene's in the October of 1 8 5 8 . Taylor 
included this play among those which were strictly " of my own in- 
vention — subjects as well as treatment ". Any number of coincidences 
of the same sort can be cited to prove that such accidents will happen, 
and it is fortunate that whether he copied it or reinvented it is of no 

1 In 1845, the year in which Octave Feuillet's work began to be published, 
" feuilleton " meant the reading-matter on the half-leaf or " feuillet " set apart 
in French newspapers for literary essays. That it now means the kind of light 
novel that used to be serialized by newspapers is ascribed to the prolific successes 
he enjoyed in this commodity. Most of our dictionaries have yet to realize that 
the word, in English usage today, applies solely to fiction. 



importance here. What matters is that this eagerness to present stage 
pictures of sinlessness was evident not only in London and Paris but also 
in New York. How Sothern, as a be-whiskered caricature of English 
nobility who became world-famous as Lord Dundreary, stole all the 
limelight in Our American Cousin, both in New York and at the Hay- 
market, has been handed down as a very familiar story, but by now it 
has been forgotten that he made as great a success by nightly burning a 
Will when he played Feuillet's young man at the Haymarket in a new 
English version called A Hero Of Romance, by Dr. Westland Marston, 
in 1868. In his memoir of Sothern, Edgar Pemberton describes how 
the dispossessed heir, employed as a steward by the parvenu family of 
the haughty young woman he loves, conquered (" off") the unheard- 
of vices of an unmanageable horse, submissively bore the taunts of a 
proud and unyielding beauty, rushed for her sake " three steps at a 
time " up the steps inside the ruined tower by the light of a pale moon, 
and recklessly flung himself from that dizzy height on to a yawning 
feather-bed in the unseen depths below. " Exquisitely dressed in a 
perfectly fitting sealskin-trimmed coat, the like of which had never 
been seen before (and which no one but the Sothern of those days dare 
have worn) ", he burnt the Will as a sacrifice to past love, after which 
young men burnt foolscap Wills in candle-flames at penny readings 

But this history of Feuillet's lapse into virtue — it deserves to be called 
that even though he was merely obeying the dernier cri — has gone too 
far ahead. As soon as he disclosed what the public wanted in 1858, 
there was a very decided movement in the theatre to supply the 
demand, and while vice and lawlessness were still being mirrored in 
realism, this other kind of fidelity to life was brought upon the stage by 
" naturalism ". The first to represent the new style was H. T. Craven, 
an actor whose highly original ideas on how to set a scene revolution- 
ized the art of theatrical " production ". What is of less importance 
nowadays but of far more account when the tone of public morals 
comes up for consideration, is that he undoubtedly led the way in 
showing how the drama could gratify those critics who demanded 
from it " a more healthy tone ". There had been domestic dramas 
before his time. In these the usual plan was to contrast the heroine's 
spotless purity with examples of criminality. Craven left out murder 
and robbery altogether. 

Sweet simplicity was his stock-in-trade while demonstrating what 
can be done with ordinary everyday furniture on the stage. If this new 
fad deserved the name of naturalism, then Craven was the original 
naturalist. He even went so far as to make costumed characters in 


The Romance of a Poor Young Man 
(New York, 1859) 

historical dramas say what they meant in plain language. When close 
on thirty years of age he had played Orlando at Drury Lane in 1850. 
There were then a few plays bearing his name, and in 1853 he wrote 
Our Nelly, a piece of pure Mummerset, for the Surrey, but he was not 
important enough to be missed at home when he spent some years in 
Australia. On his return in i860 his The Post Boy was put on at the 
Strand, a stone's throw from Temple Bar. The moral must be noted. 
" As a Briton ", says Joe to get down the curtain, " I'm proud of our 
aristocracy, for there we find that noble species — a fine old English 
Gentleman." At the Strand three years later Craven borrowed the 
business of burning a Will for reasons of self-sacrifice and called the 
result Miriam's Crime. A rich widow leaves everything to her hired 
companion, who destroys the Will in order to benefit some scamp of a 
nephew. The handsomely furnished apartment changes to a neat but 
humble lodging-house where tables and chairs become a barricade 
when her enemies hunt for documents unavailingly because the 
nephew and the companion marry and take everything. Humble 
maids, outlawed by poverty from the life where they could be admired, 
were Craven's particular care. 

At the Strand in 1864 his Milky White achieved naturalism both in 
the way it was written and the way it was staged. The parlour of 
Daniel White, dairyman and cow-keeper, unpopularly known as 
" Milky ", is backed by the dairy, a paved and whitewashed chamber 
with churn, yokes, milk cans. The door has a practicable lock or 
bolt, and the window-sill real pots. There is a cottage piano ; a work- 
basket with various articles of needlework is on the table ; a drugget 


covers the parlour floor and there is a doormat, upon which the cowboy- 
wipes his feet. In a frenzy of churlishness White drives Annie out of 
doors and takes to his bed in a bedroom so natural that looking-glass, 
comb and brush are on the toilet table and " a piece of neat bedroom 
carpeting on the floor ". 

There was no questioning Craven's success while the novelty lasted. 
In Megs Diversion, at the Royalty in 1866, he told an artless tale which 
had little more to it than a flirtation which begins in fun and ends in 
earnest, and yet achieved a run of over 300 performances. This is an 
event not without importance, for it marks the peak of London's 
craving for displays of innocence. 

His earlier plays at the Strand formed the beginning of triple bills 
which concluded with farce. The middle, the most popular part, 
always consisted of the type of burlesque that prompted the joke about 
actresses who filled not roles but tights, and in these Marie Wilton was 
" so stupendously like a boy and unlike a woman that " — or so Dickens 
said — "it is perfectly free from offence". While representing all 
manner of men, including Myles-na-Coppaleen, she aspired to act in 
comedy; when told to keep to " the merry sauciness of the wicked 
little boy Cupid ", she felt there was nothing for it but to go into man- 
agement herself. Meanwhile another " boy " in these burlesques, 
Fanny Josephs, had come to the same conclusion. Both saw in Craven's 
comedies the style of the future, and both knew that the time for change 
was overdue. 

The London stage was despotically ruled by old tyrants. Webster 
was one. Buckstone, who now reigned at the Hay market as the master 
of comedy, was another. They were of the theatre theatrical. Up to 
1866 they had the power to decide the style of plays, and in that style 
they were unbeatable — on their own ground old players usually are. 
Neither the Adelphi nor the Haymarket possessed elegance or comfort 
and audiences had to sit on hard wooden benches. On the other side 
of the footlights the furnishings were just as crude ; the scenery con- 
sisted of backcloths and side- wings with doors and chairs painted on 
them. Little was thought of illusion, for the acting aimed at make- 
believe and nothing else ; by addressing themselves straight at the public 
old actors obtained the greatest possible effect. The clothes they wore 
on the stage proclaimed the exaggerated characters they were supposed 
to be and bore little relation to what people wore in real life. 

This explains why Craven was so successful and why all the young 
hopefuls of the theatre decided to imitate him. When Fanny Josephs 
went into management at the Holborn she took Ins The Post Boy with 
her, though it could not, as a piece already seen, make a stir. When 


Marie Wilton went into management she was wiser : as the pet of 
society she argued that the one thing wrong with Craven's uncommon 
ideas was that they were " common ". Like Madame Vestris one 
generation earlier, she could be sure that where she went the world of 
fashion would follow, even into the slums ; and in the same way that 
Vestris had once transformed the Olympic into a salon fit for ladies and 
gentlemen, so Marie Wilton turned the Tottenham Street theatre, then 
known as a blood-tub, into a drawing-room. Besides carpets and 
armchairs, private boxes and upholstered stalls in the auditorium, she 
provided furniture for the stage that would make interiors look like 
the interiors her patrons, rich or poor, had come from. The company 
she engaged consisted of players who were capable of ignoring the 
audience, speaking their lines to one another, and behaving as though 
acquainted with drawing-rooms. It is worth noting that she did not 
act fine ladies herself until her husband, Squire Bancroft, had " made a 
duchess of her ". 

Fashion had a great deal to do with the triumphs won in Tottenham 
Street when its theatre, renamed the Prince of Wales's, opened in 1865. 
Why Craven's share in the " revolution " was so speedily overlooked 
is because he was not responsible for the sudden promotion of the stage 
to a higher social sphere. He merely invented naturalism, which was 
to realism what virtue was to vice ; it displayed cups and saucers in- 
stead of magnums and glasses, and revolved around marriages instead 
of adultery. The Bancrofts' contribution was to correct the old anti- 
thesis between kind hearts and coronets by picturing society in the way 
Gilbert chronicles in his lines about hearts true and fair in Belgrave 
Square. Bad baronets had no place in a " model drawing-room 
theatre " which had set out to please baronets. That sharp line be- 
tween innocence in poverty and vice amid wealth could no longer be 

Victorian drama had thus split in two. While Webster went with 
wealth, wickedness and wine — this alliteration cannot be helped — the 
new generation saw no evil in rank or riches or quiet behaviour. In 
essence there was no great difference between the new and the old 
because both preserved the same unquestioning belief in Virtue 
Triumphant, but in all inessentials they were at opposite extremes. 
Floods and oceans as depicted in sensation scenes may be contrasted 
with a stage-direction in a cup-and-saucer comedy which says, " The 
umbrellas to be wet ". According to the new taste this was as effective 
as a lake of blue gauze had been to the old. 

It had become difficult to define " real ". Sometimes it was a term 
of praise, sometimes of blame. Real cabs or real fire-engines were 


despised by the very people who admired real doors — even when they 
stuck at awkward moments. The difference concerns size. While 
the champions of realism surpassed themselves by exhibiting animals, 
vehicles and machines that were better because they were bigger, the 
leaders of naturalism who had started with doors, chairs and umbrellas, 
won their most resounding triumphs with smaller and smaller things, 
down to tongs and spoons on their tea-tables. Here is the secret of the 
cup-and-saucer comedies. For at least a dozen years a smooth white 
cloth, hanging almost to the floor, a silver urn, a mufhn-dish and a 
creditable taste in china, reassured audiences at the Prince of Wales's 
that this was the theatre for the elect among playgoers. Consequently 
tea-tables remained the hallmark of a Bancroft play, however much it 
had to change its settings from high life to low. (And if ever it should 
be asked why English comedies of succeeding generations should so 
often contain prattle of the do-you-take-sugar ? order, here is the 

Tom Robertson was the playwright chiefly associated with the 
Bancrofts. For twenty years he had been regularly supplying melo- 
drama to theatres everywhere until he had the good fortune to hit on 
the idea of giving an aristocratic flavour to the scenes of sentiment 
usually associated with humble life — raising domesticity to the peerage, 
it might be called. War in melodramas usually consisted of heroics 
for officers and comic relief for men; when Robertson dramatized the 
Crimea in Ours — played by the Bancrofts at Liverpool in the August of 
1866 and in Tottenham Street a month later — his titled characters be- 
haved sometimes in a humorous but never in a high falutin' way. 
Mary Wilton herself appeared as a companion, " kept in the room to 
save another woman from rising to ring a bell, or hand her the scissors ", 
or to play the piano when ordered. The plot was left to Sir Alexander 
Shendryn, who will not tell his wife what he does with certain sums of 
money, and Lady Shendryn, who thinks the worst : actually her em- 
bezzling brother is to blame, and her husband, unlike husbands in real 
life, is too chivalrous to speak the truth about his wife's relations. 
Robertson is plainly taking advantage of public good-will when he 
unravels Ours. A sergeant brings news of the Colonel. Lady 
Shendryn rises. Mary, the companion, cries, " Hush ". Lady Shen- 
dryn says, " You need not speak — I know all ! He is dead." When 
Sir Alexander enters a minute later she kneels to beg forgiveness. The 
play was successful and still more so when revived in 1870. That it 
belongs to a drawing-room theatre is apparent in its scene on the eve of 
the war when a Russian prince comes to say good-bye to Blanche, 
Lady Shendryn's ward : 



Ours (Prince of Wales's, 1866) : The Hut in the Crimea 

Prince Should you honour me by favourable consideration of my 
demand, in return for the honour of your hand, I offer you rank 
and power. On our own lands we hold levees — indeed you will 
be queen of the province — of 400,000 serfs — of your devoted 
slave — my queen ! 

Blanche (sits on sofa, L.) Queen ! If I should prove a tyrant? 

Prince (standing) I am a true Russian, and love despotism ! 

Blanche (smiling) And could you submit to slavery ? 

Prince At your hands — willingly (sits on her R.H.) I assure you 
slavery is not a bad thing ! 

Blanche But freedom is a better. 

In drama of a more robust type Blanche would have said, " That is 
why our countries are fighting ". At Astley's, where the Crimean 
War was the subject of a grand military and equestrian spectacle, the 
response consisted of several patriotic speeches and a battle, whereas in 
Ours the chief event of the siege of Sebastopol was the cooking of a 
roly-poly pudding. Another peculiarity of the Bancrofts' perform- 
ance was the way the heroines behaved while awaiting, in the officers' 
mud hovel, the outcome of the battle : 


Blanche (in tone of command) Hi ! Ho ! Ha ! Attention ! Form 
hollow square ! Prepare to receive (prancing over to R.). Cavalry ! 
(Blanche charges upon Mary. Mary somewhat frightened retreats to 
the corner.) 

This was highly popular " business ". Audiences were expected never 
to grow tired of it. In Caste Polly, imitating a soldier on horseback, 
prances up and down, gallops, imitates bugle, gives point with parasol 
and nearly spears Hawtree's nose. In Blow For Blow Lady Linden 
" gallops round in imitation of horse in circus, laughing and humming 
a tune ". Some hint of a hobby-horse was given by the bustle (which 
did bustle when agitated) or " dress-improver ", so called because it 
hid that part of the natural shape which was " rude ". To save poster- 
ity's confusion we must explain that this refers to the posterior — a later 
generation disconcertingly transferred offence to the bust. 

Caste opened at the Prince of Wales's in the April of 1867. The 
Marquise de Maur may seem exalted when she says to her son George, 
" My boy (kissing his forehead), I am sure, will never make a mesal- 
liance. He is a D'Alroy, and by his mother's side Planta-genista. The 
source of our life stream is royal," but the Marquise is exceptional. 
George is human enough to marry Esther, the columbine, daughter of 
the drunken Eccles, and sister of Polly (Marie Wilton), who is about 
to marry Sam, honest tradesman in boxed paper-cap. The plot 
amounts to this : George goes to India and is reported killed in action 
but returns safe and sound to his wife and baby, whereupon the Mar- 
quise, bending over the cradle, says, " My grandson ". How effective 
it was can be gathered by the line of reasoning it inspired in the critical 
faculty of Clement Scott when he wrote, " Picture it ! A great hulk- 
ing, handsome, well-bred officer, who becomes a ' great big baby 
again, lisping inarticulate sentences over the infant that he could have 
crushed to death in his great strong, manly arms." That is the emo- 
tional side. The humour kept to jokes that had already proved their 
worth. Hawtree, moving backwards, bumped against Sam who 
turned round savagely : 

Hawtree I beg your pardon! (crossing up stage). George, will 

you . . . (George takes no notice) will you . . . 
George What? 
Hawtree Go with me ? 
George Go ? No ! 
Hawtree Then Miss Eccles — I mean "my lady". (Shaking hands and 

going ; as he hacks away humps against Sam and business repeated.) 


Esther makes no protest when her father is sent to Jersey, " where 
spirits are cheap ", with ^2 a week in the hope that he will drink him- 
self to death in a year. " I think I could," he says, " I'm sure I'll try ", 
and Esther plays a sentimental tune on the piano. It is an astonishing 
reversal of the old stage tradition that the ties between heroine and 
father were sacred. 

6 Detective Stories 

The Ticket-oJ -Leave Man 

WERE " the detective police " left out of it, this chronicle would be 
smoother. Unhappily there is no ignoring them. While slowly 
fixing their grip on popular imagination, they inspired one or two of 
the most memorable of melodramas. The inexorable spread of an 
epidemic which rages yet, must be traced in detail. It started long ago. 
" The sordid and mechanical occupation of a blood-hunter " is men- 
tioned by Godwin in " Caleb Williams ", and if a very early instance 
of the deductive method is wanted there is the explanation given by 
Herodotus of mysterious thefts from what is now technically known as 
a " sealed room ". There is also Voltaire's Zadig. When asked if 
he had seen a runaway horse, he answered, " One with a small hoof, a 
tail three feet and a half long, a bit made of gold and shoes of silver? " 
He had not seen it but reconstructed it from clues. 

No matter how many such facts go to prove that the detective story 
is of ancient origin, Edgar Allan Poe deserves the credit for shaping it. 
He was a child of the stage. Two players who came with a company 
to Boston brought him into the world and soon afterwards died. He 
was adopted, reared in comfort, and educated at the University of 
Virginia. Even then he led a wild life until his marriage to his cousin, 
little more than a child. 

The control he was exercising over his turbulent nature expressed 
itself in fiction which he labelled " semi-scientific " because it was dis- 
passionate. In a civilization hag-ridden by melodrama, the players' 
child, in between youthful excesses and the final debauch caused by 
heartbreak over the death of his wife, discovered how to escape from 
the welter of sentimental emotionalism. Four distinct mechanisms 
tick round in his tales. " The Murders in the Rue Morgue " is the first 
murder puzzle. " The Mystery of Marie Roget " is the first example 
of straightforward crime detection. " The Gold Bug " is the model 
cryptogram. " The Purloined Letter " sign-posts Secret Service. 
These were potent to excite public curiosity. Yet so slothful is popular 
imagination that the effect told only upon generations to come, 



C and XI C#5te (Prince of Wales's, 1867) : John Hare as Sam Gerridge, and Marie Wilton (later Mrs. 

Bancroft) as Polly Eccles 

II Caste (Prince of Wales's, 1867) : Squire 
Bancroft as Captain Hawtree 

XIII School (Prince of Wales's, 1869) : John Hare 
as Beau Farintosh 

XIV Henry Neville as Bob Brierley 

XV Miss Raynham as Sam Willoughby and Lydia 
Foote as May Edwards 

THE TICKET-OF-LEAVE MAN (Olympic, 1863) 

XVI The returned convict is dismissed from his employment 

XVII Olympic, 1871 : The Woman in White. A new type of villain 

XVIII Adelphi, 1867 : No Thoroughfare. The hero conies back to life 

XIX Mr. and Mrs. Kendal as Dora and Captain 

XX W. H. Kendal and John Clayton as the 
brothers Beauclerc 

DIPLOMACY (Prince of Wales's, 1878) 

XXI Mrs. Bancroft as the Comtessc Zicka, engaged in espionage 


While the significance of Poe's " Tales of the Grotesque and Ara- 
besque " had yet to be understood, blundering attempts were being 
made to let imagination function in the way he had pointed out. Very 
vaguely all mystery-mongers were striving to get away from sexual 
morality. Unable though they were to manage without heroines and 
villains, they did contrive an unreality where vice meant a desire to 
wallow in gore without any ulterior motive. In the previous age 
Walpole, Mrs. Radcliffe and " Monk " Lewis had been blindly groping 
their way towards the idea which William Dean Ho wells, the American 
novelist, laid down as a new law in his statement that there is something 
about murder, " some inherent grace of refinement perhaps ", that 
makes its actual representation upon the stage more tolerable than the 
most diffident suggestion of adultery. The ideal was realized in the 
barn-stormers' stand-by, Ada The Betrayed, whose heroine is desired by 
the villains purely as one more victim of their sledge-hammer, 
butcher's cleaver, assassin's stiletto and arson. 

The trouble was, of course, that murder had so often been merely 
part of the drama of adultery. Poe changed all that by being " semi- 
scientific ". He created the character who has all Hamlet's avidity to 
get at the truth without any of Hamlet's feelings in the matter. Of 
course the type was not entirely without literary pedigree. There are 
Dogberry and Verges, who become sleuths when they eavesdrop. 
Next there is the thief-taker, Jonathan Wild, despicable felon who yet 
had power to arrest Jack Sheppard in the King's name. Fielding's 
novel, the greatest memorial ever raised to a nark, offended Scott be- 
cause it was a picture of vice, unrelieved by anything of human feeling 
and " never, by any accident even, deviating into virtue ". Fielding's 
way of seeing things as they were, instead of as they ought to be, would 
not do. 

When falsely-accused innocence became the most frequently used 
plot in all fiction, the Majesty of the Law was respected. Real life 
created the scene for playwrights to copy when Corder was arrested for 
the murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn. He had, as Douglas 
Jerrold expounded in Wives By Advertisement ; or, Courting In The 
Newspapers at the Coburg in 1828, found a spinster with money, mar- 
ried her, and lived happily until an officer belonging to Lambeth Street 
police-office, London, entered his house. According to this witness's 
evidence in court, the prisoner came out of the parlour into the hall in a 
hurried manner, said, " Sir, walk into the drawing-room ", submitted 
to search, and was taken to the Red Lion at Brentford. Such reports 
as the one from which this has been taken were serious rivals of the 
Penny Dreadful. The plain-clothes officer belonging to a police-office 


was thus a familiar figure to readers before he was known to authors. 
He had to come and go in reports of fact as ghosts came and went in 
tales of imagination. The discovery of bodies was made by laymen 
and the apportioning of blame was the business of coroners upon whom 
the duty of crime-detection devolved. Since coroners could call upon 
bystanders to overpower suspects, the police of fiction merged among 
such background characters as ushers, warders, lawyers and chaplains 
until news came from abroad concerning " the disreputable calling of a 
police spy " — another Jonathan Wild. 

Francois Eugene Vidocq, 1 who was born at Arras on 23 July, 1775, 
and died in Paris past the age of eighty, was the first. He began as a 
soldier. He was next a thief and as such went to prison. He turned 
thief-taker and rose so rapidly in his new profession by jugging his 
old friends, that when a detective force was formed he became the head 
of it, not so much because of his skill as a sleuth as because of his lack of 
virtue as a nark. At fifty he retired to run a private detective agency 
which was closed by the police — temporarily. More important still 
he wrote his memoirs. These were used by Jerrold at the Surrey in 
1829 for Vidocq, The French Police Spy. Lord Lytton sketched the 
portrait of a French police chief, under the name of Favare, in " Night 
and Morning ", and in Brougham's version, acted at Wallack's Theatre, 
the type makes his appearance on the stage — unpropitiously. In this 
play Favare boasts, before putting on mechanic's clothes and a patch 
over one eye, " Although this fellow has seen me often, I defy him to 
detect me when I change my outward appearance ". In the coiner's 
den he is at once unmasked. 

There is not so much crime detection here as in Presumptive Evidence ; 
or, Murder Will Out at the Adelphi in 1828. It was based by Buckstone 
on " Card Drawing ", one of Gerald Griffin's " Tales of the Minister 
Festivals ", in which a sailor's Trafalgar medal becomes incriminating 
evidence. His clothes are borrowed by a rogue as a disguise while 
committing burglary, the medal is left beside the body of the man he 
murders, and only a last-minute confession saves the sailor's life. There 
was something so satisfying in the spectacle of villainy's overthrow by 
remorse that no greater ingenuity was needed, as The Golden Farmer ; 
or, The Last Crime made clear at five of the minor theatres in 1833. 
Ben Webster, the author, took for his hero a real highwayman who, at 
his corn-chandler's shop in Thames Street, inspected by day the purses 
he would cut by night. While varying robbery with a little burglary 
he is caught red-handed and adjures his assistant, " Oh, if you did but 

1 Since this was written a new biography of Vidocq has appeared in English, 
written by Philip John Stead. 




Vidocq, The French Police Spy 
(Surrey Theatre, 1829) 

know the heartfelt pleasure of good deeds compared with evil ones, 
how soon you'd relinquish your bad courses." When the highway- 
man is being pursued Webster borrows an episode from Scott that 
would reappear in the historical dramas of Dumas and in Wild West 
plays about Davy Crockett. When the officers arrive, the wife of the 
Golden Farmer tries to close the shutters against them. " Ha ! " she 
says, " the bar's removed ! How to fasten it ? — Nothing can save him ! 
Ha ! Thank heaven for the thought ! " (Pushes her arm through the 

Hue-and-cry was still the best way authors knew of representing the 
approach of doom. Reporters could do better. When the inquest was 
held on the body of Maria Marten her step-mother's evidence was, " I 
dreamed once before and once after Christmas, that my daughter-in- 
law was murdered, and buried in the Red Barn ; hearing no tidings of 
her, I became so very uneasy that I entreated my husband to make a 
search, and he did so." In the " Authentic and Faithful History " of 
the crime her statement begins a detective interest that increases as 
medical evidence about wounds makes a damning parallel with evi- 
dence about weapons in Corder's possession. The popular vogue of 
detective stories in England finds some origin here. 

The next development in the making of murder-mysteries was the 
clue. 1 This can be traced to a French drama, Une Cause Celebre, 

1 False clues, like the handkerchief in Othello, were well known; and proofs of 
royal birth, like those in The Winter's Tale, might be called clues, but though 
there was no novelty in the thing itself the use it was put to was different. 



The Dumb Man of Manchester (Astley's, 1837) 

brought to Astley's in 1837 as Rayner's The Factory Assassin; or, The 
Dumb Boy Of Manchester, with Andrew Ducrow in the title-part — later, 
because he was middle-aged, it became The Dumb Man Of Manchester. 
Though he delighted his friends with the inelegance of his speech, he 
thrilled the public with the elegance of his postures, and his sufferings 
when the poor mute is falsely accused and then found guilty of murder, 
were heart-rending. But the plot turns on the perspicacity of a lawyer 
named Palmerston, who has a hunch that the crime at Manchester re- 
sembles a crime newly reported from Dieppe, where the victim grasped 
a locket, snatched from the murderer's neck in the death struggle, con- 
taining the portrait of a woman. On his return the lawyer hands the 
locket to the judge, at the same time producing a witness — a woman 
who borrowed a tell-tale ladder on the night in question — whereupon 
the judge exclaims, " What do I see? This woman, this portrait ! 'Tis 
the same person." And her husband is at once found guilty of both 
murders. That was technically well ahead of its time. In Susan 
Hopley ; or, The Vicissitudes Of A Servant Girl, Dibdin Pitt's domestic 
drama at the Old Vic in 1841, the heroine reveals that her brother's 
skeleton is behind the wainscotting, clutching the proof of his innocence 
in its bony hand, because she has, like Mrs. Marten, dreamed a dream. 
Though the word " detect " had long been used in the sense of 
identifying offenders, little public interest was taken in the process. 
The Oxford Dictionary traces " detective " no earlier than 1843 when 
Chambers' s Journal stated, " Intelligent men had been recently selected 
to form a body called the ' detective police ' ... at times the detective 
policeman attires himself in the dress of ordinary individuals ". Ten 



years later they left their mark on literature with a full-length portrait 
in "Bleak House". They were known as detectives by 1856. 
" Ferret, a detective ", appeared in the pirated version of The Dumb 
Man Of Manchester (without a line to say) ; fiction and fact were run- 
ning neck-and-neck, for the amateur detective was making his presence 
felt in London life. The one who is celebrated in W. S. Gilbert's line, 
" The keen penetration of Paddington Pollaky ", arrived from the 
Continent in 1862. 

In the May of 1863 the first " great detective " of fiction made his 
appearance in The Ticket-of-Leave Man at the Olympic. His name, 
" Hawkshaw ", is still proverbial in America, and was so in England 
until a generation ago. Old actors still " go through the motions " 
when they utter it. There are three movements : one is for his left 
hand to remove cap at the word " I ", the second is for his right hand 
to take off wig while pronouncing, " Hawkshaw ", and the third is for 
the hand with the cap in it to unfasten false whiskers while he says, 
" the detective ". The play is so thoroughly English that Tom Taylor 
can receive the credit for it even though he admitted that he took the 
story from Leonard, founded by Brisbarre and Nuz upon their own 
story of" Le Retour de Melun " in a series, " Les Drames de la Vie ". 

When the Olympic's curtain rose on the Bellevue Tea Gardens two 
detectives at table were told by Hawkshaw, " Here's Old Moss. Keep 
an eye on him ". Moss has the beautifullest lot of Bank of England 

^v^^'-Srt^^^S^^— — 

Susan Hopley, or The Vicissitudes of a Servant 
Girl (Victoria Theatre, 1841) 


flimsies that ever came out of Birmingham. Tiger, his partner, plants 
them on Bob Brierly, a fuddled Lancashire lad who has just found in 
May Edwards, a starving street-singer, the girl he wants as his partner 
for life. Hawkshaw, the cutest in the force, cannot catch the Tiger, 
but he has the poor innocent Bob sentenced to three years at Portland ; 
all of which is so well arranged that an audience believes not only in 
the policeman's skill but also in his kindness of heart. On ticket-of- 
leave Bob becomes a clerk in a bill-broking office, where he is recog- 
nized by Hawkshaw, who keeps silent, and by Moss, who gets the 
ticket-of-leave man discharged. As a navigator (a labourer at work 
on the navigation canals was so called before the word was shortened 
to navvy) Bob comes to the Bridgewater Arms for supper. He dis- 
covers a plot to burgle the bill-broking office and scribbles a note of 
warning. "But", he asks himself aloud, "who'll take it?" A 
drunken navvy, who has been reading the note over his shoulder, de- 
clares, " I will ". Bob, astonished, says " You? " Hawkshaw says, 
" I " (pulls off his rough cap, wig and whiskers, and speaks in his own 
voice), " Hawkshaw, the detective ! " In the last scene, a churchyard, 
there is a fight, and Hawkshaw is saved from being strangled on a tomb 
by the sudden arrival of the low comedian. 

The Olympic won by a short head. Two months later Hazlewood's 
The Detective, from the same French original, opened at the Victoria. 
Taylor, who always feared that managers might employ hacks to do 
their stealing for them, accepted ^150 as payment outright for this 
masterpiece among melodramas. At the Olympic Henry Neville 
carried off the honours as Bob Brierly; at Wood's Museum, Chicago, 
Frank E. Aiken made a stir in the same part ; and in New York five 
versions were acted in English and one in German — Der Mann Mit Dem 
Freischein — with The Ticket-of-Leave Woman to follow. Emily 
St. Evremonde, the heroine's friend who sings the sensation scene of 
" The Maniac's Tear " at the Bridgewater Arms, was the part that won 
the hearts of New York. Both in England and America Hawkshaw 
did not run away with the play until years later on tour and then no 
leading man would accept Bob Brierly. In 1863, when leading 
gentlemen gladly played Bob Brierly, the detective was left to players 
of lesser note, and that these did not make their names in the part shows 
that audiences were still under the spell of falsely-accused innocence. 

Propaganda had not had time to invest the word " detective " with 
romance. Dickens, with the eye of a trained journalist, was the first 
in England to see some of its possibilities. Some of his short stories 
and sketches were about them, and his tale of a pair of white gloves, in 
particular, deserved to become a classic. But the next appearances of 


detectives on the stage made it clear that Hawkshaw was not considered 
worth imitating. They are decidedly penny plain, even when efficient. 
In Black Sheep (Olympic, 1868) Tatlow speaks confidently of setting 
his men after a fugitive. They will telegraph to all the ports, send to 
all the stations, and catch him if he tries to leave London by train. 
Tatlow makes inquiries and watches diligently, but the mystery is 
solved not through any ingenuity. Considering how up to date the 
criminals are in this play, its authors must have been blind to the 
possibilities of police work when they used portraits in lockets as the 
means of discovering the truth. Crime detection was ridiculed in 
Time And The Hour by Palgrave Simpson and Felix Dale (H. C. Meri- 
vale) at the Queen's, Long Acre, in the June of 1868, for Sparrow, a 
clerk who wishes to be a detective, cannot see evidence thrust under his 
nose. A Scotland Yard detective who is mentioned never appears. 

The influence of The Ticket-of-Leave Man can be seen in the Preven- 
tion of Crimes Act of 1 871, which minted the power of the police over 
convicts out on licence. How Bob Brierly set a fashion was evident 
in 1868, when C. H. Stephenson's The Convict was played at the 
Pavilion and Henry Neville's The Convict at the Royal Amphitheatre, 
Liverpool. Henceforward convicts were always sure of public 

Murder Puzzles 

The Mystery Of A Hansom Cab 

LORD BYRON was the first to write a murder mystery for the 
English stage. His claim, though overlooked in many industrious 
attempts to trace the beginnings of detective fiction, cannot be disputed. 
His tragedy of Werner, begun in 1815 and published in 1822, presents 
the now familiar " Sealed Room " where somebody is done to death, 
nobody knows by whom, while suspicion falls heavily upon the inno- 
cent Gabor and one of two others : 

No bolt 
Is forced ; no violence can be detected 
Save on his body . . . 

I took upon myself the care 
Of mustering the police. 

But though first in the field he cannot be credited with originality. 
His drama, according to the preface, was taken entirely from the 
" German's Tale, Kruitzner ", published many years before in " Lee's 
Canterbury Tales ". Byron adds that these were " written (I believe) 
by two sisters, of whom one furnished only this story and another " ; he 
adopted the " characters, plan and even the language, of many parts ". 

The next murder mystery that I have traced was a drama written 
by Franz Grillparzer, Vienna's leading dramatist. He was born in 
1 79 1 and spent most of his eighty-odd years in the Austrian civil service. 
Sappho, and a trilogy of The Golden Fleece, were among the many poetic 
dramas he wrote that were destined to be headaches for Austrian 
schoolgirls of the future. But it is his first play, Die Ahnfrau, staged in 
1 8 17, which the outside world welcomed most. As The Ancestress ; or. 
The Doom Of Barostein, it was acted at the City of London Theatre in 
1837, and as The Ancestress it was written by Mark Lemon for the 
English Opera House in 1840. In New York the manager of the Old 
Bowery turned it into The Ancestress ; or, The Ghost Of Destiny in 1863 
as a medium for Pepper's Ghost. 

By now Poe's tales were being avidly read in Paris. Under their 
influence the indefatigable and resourceful Dennery (in collaboration) 



took Grillparzer's play in 1863 and changed it into L'Aieule. Tom 
Taylor seized this and called it The Hidden Hand. This, designed on 
" who done it? " lines, was staged at the Olympic in 1864 (a date worth 
noting for not so very long afterwards both Dickens and Wilkie 
Collins were making criminological mysteries). The ancestress of the 
German and French titles has become Lady Griffydd, living in Dinas 
Arvon, feudal castle in Carnarvonshire, during the reign of James II. 
She is also known as the Grey Lady of Porth Vernon. Her daughter, 
now dead, was Lady Penarvon, whose child, Enid, must marry 
Caerleon. Enid's step-mother, the new Lady Penarvon, cherishes a 
secret passion for Caerleon and he loves her own daughter, Muriel. 
Meanwhile Madoc, the shepherd, prowls around swearing that his 
mission in life is to anticipate the dowager's every wish. When Muriel 
suffers from arsenic poisoning there are thus three suspects. Lady 
Griffydd is ruled out because she is, through paralysis of her legs, unable 
to move. But when suspicion is removed in Act II from Lady Pen- 
arvon and from Madoc early in Act III, the final disclosure may be 
foreseen. Taylor's title already belonged to a popular American 
feuilleton; when his play went to New York in the May of 1865 — at 
the Winter Garden Mrs. J. W. Wallack played Lady Griffydd — it was 
called The Grey Lady Of Penarvon and it lasted a fortnight. 

In " East Lynne " the sub-plot is a mystery — secret consultations 
between Lady Isabel's husband and the suspect's sister cause the jealousy 
which begins the tale. Mrs. Henry Wood published the novel in 186 1 ; 
the next year she brought out " Mrs. Halliburton's Troubles ", where 
she introduces mystery into her main plot when the hero, suspected of 
having killed Ins brother, cannot clear himself because he was, at the 
moment of the crime, secretly closeted with a Quakeress. The identity 
of the actual murderer is not disclosed until the end; it is, therefore, a 
genuine detective story in the pioneer class. What the public thought 
of it is shown by these figures : while " East Lynne " sold 860 thousand 
" Mrs Halliburton's Troubles " came third in her list with 235 thous- 
and. Other authors were pleased to copy, but while they merely 
dabbled in crime, Emile Gaboriau, 1 though not such an innovator as he 
has hitherto been held to be, settled down in Paris to make of it a 
regular trade. He began in 1866 with " L' Affaire Lerouge "just at the 
time when the craze appealed to Dickens and Wilkie Collins. To- 
gether they wrote No Thoroughfare, a melodrama of embezzlement and 
attempted murder, staged at the Adelphi in 1 867. The plot consists of 
crime, some attempt to conceal the identity of the criminal, and a 

1 This was his real name, even though it does so aptly recall Gabor in Byron's 
murder-mystery, Werner. 


little weak detection, though these strands are obscured by the uncon- 
scious resolve of each author to tell a separate story. In the Dickensian 
prologue, foundlings drink real soup while an agonized mother, 
heavily draped in black, tries secretly to discover which one of them is 
her secret son. When Act I begins at the wine-merchant's the audience 
has to understand how the wrong foundling has, by the strangest of 
coincidences, made Vendale, the genuine foundling, his partner. Pay- 
ments for champagne have gone astray and Vendale must cross the Alps 
in order to link Dickens' story with Wilkie Collins* thriller, which 
begins at a Swiss inn where Obenreizer, whose ward Vendale loves, 
drugs him and tries to steal his papers. On an Alpine precipice Ven- 
dale, drugged again, falls into the abyss and is rescued ; here a snow- 
storm created the effect of a sensation drama and there was a run of 151 
nights with Webster as a cellar-man for comic relief from Fechter's 
grim Obenreizer. At Mrs. F. B. Conway's Park Theatre, Brooklyn, 
on 6 January, 1868, No Thoroughfare — minus foundlings — was pro- 
duced by Louis Lequel, who noted, " If two St. Bernard dogs can be 
obtained and used, the effect would be greatly enhanced ; they should 
carry cloths and a canteen, as in pictures ". 

Immediately after this Wilkie Collins brought out the detective story 
that became a classic of its type — ' ' The Moonstone ". This novel may 
be unique as a tale of a crime committed by somebody who is entirely 
unaware of his guilt, and it certainly belongs to that very small minority 
of crime mysteries which are about theft, not murder, but the case 
Sergeant Cuff has to tackle has complications since copied a thousand- 
fold. The great yellow diamond, prised from the forehead of the God 
of the Moon at the siege of Seringapatam, is sought by its priests. They 
are obviously suspect — proof of innocence to modern readers but not 
to those of 1 868. There is a tin case hidden by an eccentric housemaid, 
and an opium addict who is thought guilty even by the woman he 
loves ; the moonstone goes back to the idol. Thus the detective-story 
established its definite form in the years when Dickens, despite failing 
health on his last American tour, was writing " The Mystery of Edwin 
Drood ". After his death in 1870 the Surrey finished it for him. The 
Mystery Of Edwin Drood, by W. Stephens, was acted there in 1871. 
The Britannia followed suit the next year with a version by G. H. 
Macdermott, lion comique of the halls. 

On the stage the idea persisted that audiences must not be mystified. 
The principle was enunciated in 1871, when Wilkie Collins dramatized 
his novel, " The Woman in White ". As a book it was tinged with 
Gothic mystery — a usurping baronet who forges an entry in a church 
marriage-register, a woman who escapes from the lunatic asylum 


where he has imprisoned her, and Count Fosco's secret society, which 
assassinates members who betray its trust. The reader was kept guess- 
ing but not the audience. A critic (Dutton Cook) agreed with the 
change, since while it is allowable to perplex and mystify a reader to 
almost any extent, " it is found advisable to enlighten a spectator con- 
cerning the secrets of a plot at the earliest possible opportunity ". This 
argument was soon proved to be wrong-headed. When " The 
Moonstone" at last became a play, at the Olympic in 1877, it was 
rendered meaningless by all-open-and-above-board treatment. There 
was nothing for the audience to look forward to, once it had been kept 
too well-informed, apart from the pleasure of hailing, in the fat and 
genial Count Fosco, a new type of villain. 

To make matters worse, another crime play, in the same district of 
London that selfsame season, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of 
the " who-done-it? " treatment. For Paul Meritt had written an 
admirable example of the detective-drama ; it had been brought out 
at Edinburgh in 1876 and was now, a year later, with a change of title 
from Grace Royal to The Golden Plough, at the Adelphi. One title 
referred to a hostelry in the eighteenth century and the other to its 
hostess, and the reason the story had to be put in costume is because her 
morals — not as good as they ought to be — had to be viewed with a 
more tolerant eye than could be bestowed upon a character in modern 
dress. Sir Francis Claude had once been her lover and the Rev. Martin 
Preston, a schoolmaster with long fair hair, is their son ; he wishes to 
marry the niece and heiress of Sir Francis, who answers, " I will make 
it impossible for her to marry without losing everything ", and is next 
found dying from a knife-wound as a figure with long fair hair escapes. 
Martin declares that he is guilty solely to prove that he is no coward — 
he has been taunted — but after his arrest, his mother sees a man with 
long fair hair at large. Who it is might surprise any audience. 

With a novel called " The Leavenworth Case " in 1878 — seen as a 
play at the Theatre Royal, Halifax, seven years later — Anna Katherine 
Green set herself up as a writer of crime mysteries. Her novel of 1883 
was the first to be labelled " A Detective Story ". The most popular 
was Fergus Hume's " The Mystery of a Hansom Cab ", published in 
Melbourne in 1886, before it broke all English records as a best-seller. 
The dramatized version at the Princess's in 1888 gave the plot away, 
and what was left after the puzzle had been removed, barely lived up to 
its label of " Sensational Drama " despite character tags on the pro- 
gramme. Cabman No. 1,104 of Melbourne (whose licence is as un- 
tarnished as his harness) is hailed by a young man who leaves a corpse 
inside his cab. Policeman X 43 (the servant's friend, the burglar's 


foe) is baffled, but a detective discovers that the young man was visiting 
a dying woman, first wife of the heroine's father, whose existence 
proves the second marriage to be a bigamous one and the heroine 
illegitimate. The murder has been committed by " the canker which 
insidiously eats its way into the heart of society " in order to seize the 
dying woman's marriage lines for blackmail. 

There was a fresh development in 1887. In " Study in Scarlet ", 
a tale by Conan Doyle, there appeared a detective of compelling inter- 
est to people without any desire to solve problems of crime. Poe's 
influence on Doyle was noticeable in mysteries of the sealed-room kind, 
in murders committed by zoological means and in the reading of 
cryptograms. But all such ingenuity was appreciated afresh because it 
exhibited the personality of Sherlock Holmes. 


8 Secret Service 


WHAT Vidocq was to the detective police Fouche was to the secret 
police. Secret Service, since it means crime without the criminal, 
makes a distinct appeal, for here sympathy is for the law-breaker ; a 
sergeant strict in his arrest becomes the representative not of law and 
order but of evil. Fouche, that merciless agent of the Terror whose 
cold-blooded, scientific zeal for probing into secrets won him the post 
of Minister of Police, was trusted by nobody and respected by every- 
body. Whoever ruled France was his master. Robespierre, Napoleon, 
Napoleon's conquerors, and Louis XVIII in turn were ready to employ 
him : they knew he was unscrupulous, they knew he was faithless, they 
knew he was expert, they knew he would serve their purpose as long as 
it served his own. Fiction could invent nothing so inhuman. It could 
merely make use of his name. 

He had been dead not many years when Melesville and Duveyrier 
used him as a character on the stage. Their play became Secret Service, 
an after-piece in two acts by Planche at Drury Lane in 1834. Miss 
Murray, who was the heroine, went with it to the Walnut Street 
Theatre, Philadelphia, after which it took its place in stock throughout 
the United States. The title then signified secret police. " How 
questionable ", runs the introduction to the American edition, " it 
appears to the American patriot whether such a system is at all necessary 
for the good of nations or individuals." It denounces the extraordinary 
ability of" the contemptible informer ", Desaunais, and the false friend, 
Fouche, and consigns them " to the infamy they have so justly earned ". 
Nothing of this occurs in the " beautiful drama " itself. Fouche is a 
faithful friend to Michel Perrin, who has been turned out of his curacy 
and is lodging with his niece and her betrothed, Bernard. The mo- 
ment the Minister hears that his old tutor is in want, a post is created 
with no other duties than dining out. Desaunais, misunderstanding 
the situation, asks Perrin for news of what he has seen and heard, and 
by chance the answers mcriminate Bernard. A plot to assassinate 
Napoleon is disclosed and the ringleader arrested. Perrin asks the 



prisoner whether there is none to fear for him, " No kindred — no 
mother?" The prisoner breaks down, the cure frees him, the con- 
spiracy is cancelled, and Perrin flings down his wages of shame after 
Fouche has apologized for causing a respectable man to be branded as 
an agent. From this detective malgre lui some prejudice against police 
spies may be assumed. But the story is of interest chiefly because of the 
use to which it puts a scrap of paper — a list of names passed unknow- 
ingly from hand to hand until at last it comes under the eye of De- 
saunais. Although an incriminating letter had often been dropped by 
guilty lovers at the feet of the last person on earth they would wish to 
read it, the list in Secret Service begins the tornado of political documents, 
plans of fortifications, blue-prints of inventions, sealed orders and rough 
drafts of international treaties, to be lost, stolen or mislaid, sold, traced 
or photographed, for ever. 

In Philadelphia, in the years when Planche's Secret Service was played 
at the Walnut Street and Arch Street Theatres, Poe was writing his 
" Tales of the Arabesque and the Grotesque " for the Gentleman s 
Magazine, of which he was assistant editor. Possibly a hint from that 
play set him thinking of" The Purloined Letter ", which in turn has 
often been held responsible for all the stealing and concealing of 
private papers for years to come upon the stage. When the evidence is 
examined Secret Service is the more open to blame. It inspired Plot 
And Passion, by Tom Taylor and J. Lang at the Olympic in 1853, where 
secret papers stolen from a hollow walking-stick cause Fouche's down- 
fall at the hands of a female spy who has fallen in love with her in- 
tended victim. Here is the father of several plots that would make the 
name of Sardou famous in years to come. Robson, an astonishing 
little genius who usually acted in burlesque and sang comic songs, 
was Desmarets of the Secret Police. 

When his first play was hissed at the Odeon in 1854 Victorien Sardou 
was in his early twenties. He went back to journalism and planned, 
according to Brander Matthews' account, " a series of semi-scientific 
tales after the manner of Poe's ". Six years later, when he was in such 
demand in the theatres that his plays were presented at the rate of one 
every three months, he is supposed to have been prompted by " The 
Purloined Letter " to construct Les Pattes De Mouche. Here the letter 
is hidden by a lover under a statuette, where it is found, not by his mis- 
tress, but by his enemy. It is used for lighting a cigar and thrown half- 
burnt out of a window, where an entomologist picks it up to wrap a 
little beetle in. Another lover snatches it to scribble a hasty note upon. 
Who should receive it but the husband of the first woman? But he 
reads the second message, not the first. The idea that a compromising 


document should, after a note has been scribbled on the other side, find 
its way into the last hands meant for it, will be found in the text not of 
Poe but of Planche, yet nobody noticed this when Sardou's comedy 
won lasting popularity on the English-speaking stage as A Scrap Of 
Paper. Not only in that play but also in others he made use of pur- 
loined letters in a way that " hand properties ", from lost handkerchiefs 
to mcriminating daggers, had never been used before. The reply to 
his oration at the Academy spoke of his way with the letter. " The 
envelope, the seal, the wax, the postage-stamp and the postmark, the 
tint of the paper and the perfume which rises from it, not to speak of 
the handwriting, close or free, large or small — how many things in a 
letter, as handled by you, may be irrefutable evidence to betray the 
lovers, to denounce the villains, and to warn the jealous ! " For 
example, the innocent Fernande writes to the marquis the story of her 
squalid upbringing; the letter is intercepted, and the marquis learns 
too late that marriage to her has " dishonoured " him. In " Playhouse 
Impressions " Walkley calls this trick Sardou's one indefeasible claim 
to be considered " a man of letters ". 

In accordance with the stage tradition of Paris (ever since Beau- 
marchais invented Figaro as the embodiment of democracy), Sardou 
usually expressed political feelings in his plays. Throughout the nine- 
teenth century no Frenchman could escape political fever, and he lived 
in the midst of it. A brief sketch of his career by Blanche Roosevelt 
ends with her translation of" How I Took the Tuileries ", by himself. 
Following the surrender of Napoleon III at Sedan, the Second Empire 
fell. Part of every French revolution was an attack on the Tuileries, 
and a mob was advancing to keep up the custom. The Imperial Guard 
barred the way. With a friend at his side Sardou set out to ask their 
commander to withdraw his troops and replace them with the National 
Guard or the Mobiles, whom the people regarded as their own forces. 
The soldiers from a distance saw " two ants going to storm a mile- 
stone ", but those two caused the Garde Mobile to come up at the 
double and form " a large passage with a hedge of guns on either side ". 
The mob rushed straight through, found itself on the other side of the 
palace, and walked off pitifully, astonished and disappointed. 

After the siege of Paris, the Insurrection, the barricades, the blood- 
shed, the executions and the political crisis had all passed, Sardou was 
free to think of Secret Police. When the new fortifications of Paris 
were nearly complete there was a spy scare. The idea o£Dora formed 
in his brain. The heroine, like nearly all his previous heroines, was a 
fresh, engaging, charming girl. Secret papers entrusted to her be- 
trothed have been read — a perfume tells by whom — a personal matter 


XXII The Lady of the Camellias : The ghost of Marguerite consoles the mourning Armand 


XXIII Theodora (Paris, i 

XXIV La Tosca (Paris, 1 887) : Sarah Bernhardt XXV La Tosca (Garrick, 1889) : Mrs. Bernard 


XXVI Fedora (Hay market, 1886) : Mrs. Ber- 
nard Beere 

XXVII Adrienne Lecouvreur (Paris, 1880) : Sarah 


XVIII Lost in London (Adelphi, 1867) : Adelaide XXIX Lo5f in London: J. L. Toole as Benjamin 

Neilson as Nelly Armroyd Blinker 


: >;-'.■■'">;'■ : : \ 

OC Jo (Globe, 1 876) : Jennie Lee as the crossing- 


XXXI Two Little Vagabonds (Princess's, 1896) 
Sydney Fairbrother as Wally 


Olympic, 1874 : 1. Helena Ernstone as Henriette. 2. William Rignold as Jacques. 3. Mrs. Charles Vine 
as Countess de Liniere. 4. Henry Neville as Pierre. 5. Mrs. Huntley as La Frochard. 6. Emily Fowle 

as Louise 


upon which hang the destinies of nations. There are no combats, no 
prisons, no escapes, no encounters in the style of Dumas — nothing but 
a paper-chase by well-bred people in what were known as surroundings 
of ease and refinement. 

In short, it is Drawing-Room Drama. But it is still more emphatic- 
ally Secret Service. Clement Scott, who watched the play in Paris in 
the company of Bancroft and B. C. Stephenson, saw " Constanti- 
nople " in letters of fire. There was always a Near Eastern problem, 
there was always the Great Bear, and the three eagerly set to work. 
On the English stage the title, Dora, had already been taken for a 
popular idyll by Reade out of Tennyson, so their adaptation of Sardou 
became Diplomacy, acted by the Bancrofts at the Prince of Wales's in 
1878 and that same year by other notable companies, at the Hay- 
market, in the provinces and in America, with many revivals for half a 
century. The cup-and-saucer had had its day. It was now the day 
of the document. 

What an astonishing change came over Sardou in mid-career may be 
gathered from Brander Matthews' account of his work up to 1882. 
Writing at that date this critic could agree with the playwright's boast 
that his great respect for woman was evident in the way he had imbued 
his female characters with common sense as well as tenderness and self- 
sacrifice. When " French Dramatists of the Nineteenth Century'' 
was printing, Sarah Bernhardt had brought to a close a long tour of 
England and America with Adrienne Lecouvreur, Froufrou and La Dame 
Aux Camillas ; and when the book was being published Sardou had 
begun to write plays for her — as he would continue to do until past the 
age of three-score years and ten. Whatever she might demand in the 
way of tenderness and self-sacrifice there could be no denying that she 
wanted nothing so cold-blooded as common sense. Sardou had to 
throw nearly everything overboard — everything except plots which 
ticked round with clockwork made out of Secret Service. Here is the 
one link between the confiding and engaging ingenue who was for him 
the old love, and the revived femme fatale who was the new. 

After her return to Paris, Bernhardt appeared at the Vaudeville in the 
December of 1882 in Sardou's Fedora, as a Russian princess. When 
her fiance is killed she swears revenge upon Ipanoff, the Nihilist, who is 
blamed. In Paris, while luring her victim into falling in love with her, 
she falls in love with him, but neither can escape the shadow of the 
Secret Police. " Sardoodledom " was Bernard Shaw's word for it. 
Every man to his taste, every critic to his own objections. When 
Outram Tristram's The Red Lamp, at the Comedy in 1887, told the 
story of a Russian princess who signals to anarchists in order to save 


her brother from betrayal to the Secret Police, the comment of those 
who held that playwrights should always be told not to, was, " Nihilism 
is a subject that it would be perhaps best to leave alone ". 

Though the decline and fall of the Roman Empire was too early a 
period for Secret Service to be mentioned direct, Sardou easily ima- 
gined such activities as typical of Byzantium and with this as his 
formula wrote Theodora for Bernhardt at the Porte-Saint-Martin in 
1884. The empress, mocking the police, tells the emperor that an 
attempt is being made on his life. Conspirators steal into the palace 
that night. The one who is caught calls out, " Andreas ", the name of 
Theodora's lover. She holds the door to stop Andreas from entering. 
The captive, fearing torture, asks for death at her hands, and declares he 
will shout the name of his companion unless she grants the request. 
She holds one hand over his mouth as she pierces his heart with a gold 
pin from her hair. Unwittingly she causes the death of Andreas and 
then yields herself to execution. 

Sardou's most thrilling play, La Tosca, was also his most effective 
example of Secret Service ; and its villain, Scarpia, the Fouche of the 
Court of Naples, has become a by-word for ruthless extortion of 
confessions. When it was staged at the Porte-Saint-Martin in 1887, 
and at the Lyceum, London, the following year, Bernhardt appeared as 
Floria Tosca, a prima donna engaged to sing at an entertainment pre- 
pared prematurely to celebrate the supposed victory of Marengo. 
When later news tells of defeat and the festivities end, she is happy at 
having to stay no longer. But Baron Scarpia, at whose side she had 
been sitting, now follows her and captures her lover, Mario Cavara- 
dossi, who knows the hiding-place of a political fugitive. While 
Floria Tosca beats her hands impotently against the door, she hears 
Mario's cries as the Luke's Iron Crown on his head contracts. She 
tears her hair, writhes on the floor and shrieks, then stands mute r 
motionless, paralysed. She kills Scarpia, lays him out on the floor 
with candles at his head and feet, and throws herself from the battle- 
ments because even in death he has been too clever for her. 

Frequent charges of plagiarism were brought against Sardou. 
After winning every case which came into court he published " Mes 
Plagiarists ". He was safe in the quarter where he was most guilty, for 
(like the majority of successful authors) he stole from himself, by 
which is meant that he borrowed situations that had proved effective in 
his current play for use in his next. Shaw indicated the resemblance 
between the plots by naming them, as a collection, Toscadora. All 
those tigresses who kill and get killed for love were but a wardrobe for 
that lithe, shadowy — " an empty cab drove up and Bernhardt stepped 


out " — feline, coiled to spring with the heart-throb in the cry of her 
golden voice. Any number of actresses tried to wear the tiger-skin. 
All are forgotten. La Tosca remains because Puccini in 1900 made a 
gift of her to prime donne everlastingly. 

Contrasts between common-or-garden crime and gilded murder 
disclose the secret places of the nineteenth-century heart. The duller 
industrialization became, the livelier glowed the mirage of blood-and- 
thunder to the strains of grand opera, but even glamour set to music 
was not equal to Bernhardt's unaccompanied. The dream of passion 
that is an integral part of hidebound propriety became tangible in her 
before the eyes of rows upon rows of the sober-minded. Through her 
performances the respectable playgoer could commit the splendid sin 
by proxy. Whenever Bernhardt killed and died for love in the slightly 
varied series Sardou supplied for her, audiences of timid souls found rest 
from their vain longings. Whole-hearted worship was given in the 
1 8 80s to this actress they called " divine " because her rages were 
Satanic. With the sudden cleavage of public opinion that was soon to 
set anti-romantics and romantics at each others' throats, the intellectual 
critics stopped their ears against the Siren. She outlived their denials 
and bewitched another generation — but not with Sardou. 

9 Modern Life 

Lost In London 

WHY was a mirage so unreal as melodrama always merging into 
realism? The paradox flourished in Dickens' novels, where starving 
children, workhouses, debtors' prisons and all the murk of Victorian 
London were the fabric of romance. In the general scheme brigands 
had withdrawn in favour of convicts, and hussars in favour of detec- 
tives ; there were prisons in the place of dungeons, and instead of the 
castle in flames there was the sinking ship or the oncoming express. 
Modern life was henceforth the favourite setting for melodrama. 

This persistent desire to approach actuality nearer and ever nearer 
may be discerned in a score of plays. At the start of Victoria's reign 
that sturdy veteran, Fitzball, was tampering with modernity. In 1843 
he brought out, at the Adelphi, the drama of Mary Melvyn ; or, A 
Marriage Of Interest. Her lover, believed dead, arrives during a party 
in " A Magnificent Apartment in Warley Castle ", and this is what they 
have to say to one another : 

Mary (recoiling) Ah ! touch me not — they told me you were lost, 

dead — touch me not, Frank, I am a wife ! 
Frank Wife! Mary! Mary! 
Mary Pardon — I die. 

But she refrains. Amid thunder her husband soliloquizes, " Rage on — 
rage on — ye furious elements ! Lend me your deadliest thunder, to 
avenge my wrongs — your fiercest lightnings, to direct my steps ! 
Revenge ! Revenge ! " The storm breaks out afresh in the last 
scene, when Melvyn, tracking his wife to a solitary cottage, is shot by 
an assassin he hired to shoot Frank. 

While Fitzball was declining — he died at the age of eighty-one in 
1873 — much of his play was purloined by Watts Phillips, as whose 
work it was presented at the Adelphi in 1867, under the title of Maud's 
Peril. It takes an original turn when the lover enters the house of the 
heroine the moment after a burglar has stabbed her husband, who then 



deliberately causes the innocent intruder to be charged with the crime. 
At the trial there is every prospect of a verdict of guilty, but the 
burglar's extortionate claims for blackmail cause the husband, on the 
point of death from a heart attack, to confess. There were many plays 
in this category. Too Late To Save ; or, Doomed To Die, long popular 
on tour in Great Britain and America, began at Exeter in 1861. T. A. 
Palmer, its author, wrote for the provinces and was seldom heard of 
in town. 

The threat to chastity that had, in the drama of castles and brigands, 
sprung from force majeure or royal prerogative, became more sinister 
when produced by means — " ample means ", said the Victorian 
punsters — of finance. For an outstanding example of this there was, 
also at the Adelphi in 1867, Watts Phillips' much-postponed Lost In 
London. That handsome young actor, Neville, played Job, a miner, 
and Adelaide Neilson, his wife, Nelly, who is abducted by a wealthy 
man of leisure, Gilbert. The news is brought down to the workings 
of Bleakmore Mine ; Job, ascending in the basket, stands erect while all 
the miners uncover, and he points upwards. In an elaborate mass of 
built-up scenery Gilbert's " The Ferns ", Regent's Park, is seen amid 
other villas in varied perspective, gleaming white in a " great snow 
effect ". Windows and distant gas-lamps are lighted as broughams 
and " all the minor outdoor details which accompany the giving of a 
grand evening party " animate a handsome portico that has large prac- 
tical doors. A lantern-bearer stands by the steps as visitors pass into 
the house. Snow falls more thickly. Lively dance-music strikes up 
and shadows pass across the blinds. Job sinks on the steps under the 
lantern. Indoors all exclaim : 

Bright champagne ! bright champagne ! bright champagne ! 
Bright champagne ! bright champagne ! bright champagne ! 

before Signora Simondi's song leads to the chorus of " Tra! la! la! 
Tra ! la ! la ! Laugh ! Laugh ! ha ! ha ! ha ! " Into this glittering scene 
Job forces his way. " What does he want? " The throng suddenly 
divides as Nelly, brilliant in diamonds and lace, utters a wild cry and 
covers her face with her hands. Job tells them, " My wife! " and 
takes her home. In the last scene their poor cottage's wide window 
gives an extensive view of a sunset over London. As Nelly dies the 
City is bright with moonbeams. The author adds the note, "It is 
required that the silvery light of the moon should fall suddenly upon 
the figure of Nelly, flooding it as with a glory ". Job raises one hand 
to heaven. " I shall find her there" he says, " though lost in London." 
Her death seems directly due to public demand. For a hundred 


years or more, dramatic critics had preached that nothing but death 
should come of a woman's lapse from virtue, and Lost In London obeyed 
this ordinance in defiance of the law of the land and the practice of 
medicine. The fate of the character compares curiously with the fate 
of the actress. Like that heroine, Adelaide Neilson came from the 
industrialized North. In a village near Bradford she had been known 
as Lizzie Bland — too well known, for her mother had been seduced by 
a handsome Spaniard and the child never escaped from gossips who had 
heard about it. This, even more than hard labour in a factory, drove 
her to run away to London, where she had no other lodging than a 
place on a bench in the Park, until pushed off by an old woman who 
claimed it as hers. Lizzie was rescued by an officer of the Carabineers. 
Putting her trust in a male who was (to her Yorkshire way of thinking) 
more like a young lady, she climbed into his cab and walked up wide 
stairs to his chambers. Life became pure nursery tale. He was a very 
young Heavy Dragoon ; other subalterns, let into the secret, came to see 
his protegee and find her a place on the stage. 

As soon as she had learnt to walk and talk at the Theatre Royal, 
Margate, she returned to town — an exquisite fifteen, with steadfast 
eyes that suggested assurance until you saw the depth in them. Her 
friends, almost in awe of her now, took the Royalty (which lent itself 
to amateur stars) and there she played Juliet. Nothing came of it, but 
a face of such ethereal quality was destined for fame — until a parson's 
son carried her off as his sixteen-year-old bride to rninister to the sick 
and teach in a Sunday school miles from anywhere. She forsook that 
rustic happiness three years later to play in Lost In London, before she 
went with her husband to New York. She left him in order to win 
triumphs at Old Drury. Her beauty, likened by Ellen Terry to the 
ripeness of a pomegranate, for some fleeting years dazzled the stage. 
She took a holiday in Paris. One day she stopped in the Bois de 
Boulogne at a cafe to recover from pain ; and as was not uncommon 
when little was known of surgery, she died suddenly in great agony. 
That was in 1880 ; her age was thirty-two. 

Where Watts Phillips took his ideas from is evident when a back- 
ward glance is given to the Surrey. The title of The Flower Girl ; or, 
The Convict Marquis, played there in 1858 and 1867, tells its own tale. 
Its author, T. Townsend, was responsible in i860 for Ralph Gaston ; or, 
The Three Lives, whose fashionable villain not only seduces a girl and 
leaves her to perish after the birth of her child, but also bears false wit- 
ness against Gaston, her brother, to have him transported. A Surrey 
drama of 1864, The Orange Girl, by Henry Leslie and some lesser 
Nicholas Rowe, had a sensational climax by the Black Tarn, a flat piece 



Mary Warner (Haymarket, 1869) 
the convict 

Kate Bateman as 

of practicable ice amid rocks beside a Druidical rocking-stone and pines, 
out of compliment to which the title was soon changed to The Frozen 
Pool. Sir Peregrine and Uriah lure Jenny across the ice until she 
reaches a hole and falls in. " The bells fire for the New Year and we 
are safe ", Uriah boasts as she drowns. Then the moon, bursting out, 
reveals the figure of Mrs. Fryer on the eminence near the rocking- 
stone : 

Mrs. F. No! Ruined, Uriah! Body and soul, ruined. (Mrs. 
Fryer tears at the practicable branch of the tree and screams) " Murder, 
Jenny," etc. (All this as quick as lightning till climax.) 

Uriah Swift as thought, the gun ! (he seizes the gun from Sir Peregrine, 
and fires). 

Mrs. F. (having torn away the branch, places it under the rocking-stone, 
using it as a kind of lever) Useless, Uriah — my life is charmed 
against your bullet. Oh, Heaven, give me a giant's strength. 
Help ! murder ! Help ! (simultaneously with his reaching her, the 
rocking-stone totters and slides off, cracking the whole of the ice — crash. 
Mrs. Fryer leaps in after it). 


Uriah Too late ! We must fly, or we are lost ! — Two travellers 
have heard the screams — the report of the gun — and are coming as 
fast as their steeds can bear them (rapidly descending). Quick, 
Sir Peregrine ; quick ! 

Sir P. Mercy of Heaven ! Look there ! (the face of Mrs. Fryer is seen 
above the ice). 

Mrs. F. My head above the ice ! My hand close woven in her hair ! 
Murder ! Help ! (with her other hand alternately clinging to, and 
endeavouring to break the ice). 

Uriah Rouse, man ! and away ! 

Mrs. F. (getting Jenny s head above the ice) At last ! At last ! Thank 
heaven ! (she seizes the crowbar which Uriah has left upon the ice, and 
breaks her way towards shore). Arms round my neck, Jenny! 
Cling to me, darling ! Cling to me ! (Mrs. Fryer reaches the 
land, and drags Jenny out of the water in a fainting state.) 

Such evidence proves that Surreyside drama in the 1860s was like 
Adelphi drama, only better. Plays of the prisoners' van, once in- 
digenous to the Surreyside, had taken root and thriven in the theatres of 
fashion. Again and again the " mirror had been held up to circum- 
stantial evidence ", crime had been shown its own features, delirium 
tremens its own image, and the detective policeman had been reflected 
(vain assumption) " in every variety of type ". 

Even the Haymarket, hitherto " distinguished for representations of 
a more refined class ", was seized in 1869 with an attack of dramatic 
jail-fever. This was because Tom Taylor had written for Miss Bate- 
man his realistic and sensational drama of Mary Warner. George, her 
husband, is charged with theft when missing banknotes are found in his 
possession. To save him she makes a false confession. Each believes 
the other guilty. When he visits her in prison they bicker. After her 
release she sinks very low in the social scale indeed. She is charged 
with " accosting " a gentleman who turns out to be, in the police- 
court, none other than George (a fine legal point for any magistrate). 
Meanwhile alcohol has rendered the real thief's constitution so pervious 
to virtue that he convinces George and Mary Warner of each other's 

" More than the ordinary regard for realism of effect " meant vast 
steam-engines in full operation, the interior of Brixton prison, a squalid 
alley in Lambeth lit with real gas-lamps, a grimy interior " commanding 
the usual fine view of the illuminated clock tower at Westminster , a 
police-court with prisoners' dock, witness-box, constables, spectators 
and presiding magistrate all complete. No pains had been spared to 


impart vividness and reality to the play down to the " most repulsive 
particulars " — significant Victorianese. 

Realism was usually called revolting. It is not easy to understand 
why people who deliberately went to have their feelings harrowed, 
afterwards complained bitterly in terms of " too ". Perhaps they 
regarded the experience as necessary — rather like a visit to the dentist. 
Yet in fairness it must be reported that they found unalloyed delight in 
mild forms of realism, such delight that they paid the opera price of 
half-a-guinea a stall to see real bread and butter cut and spread; in 
fact they were as responsive to realism in pleasure as in disgust. Robert 
Buchanan observed how audiences thrilled with joy at the sound of the 
postman's knock, or the muffin bell, and rejoiced when they saw an 
actor, dressed like a real gentleman, open a real umbrella or smoke a 
real cigar. In the scene of a park at dusk, when the chairs for visitors 
were gathered together and put away by a boy in buttons, the scene 
was " recognized at once with delight, but the great point was the 
appearance of the real boy who after his real work was done, repeated it 
on the stage nightly ". 

To see the park on the stage was pleasant. To see the police-court 
was not. The very playgoers who insisted on seeing life's seamy side 
at the footlights knew that it was too grim for make-believe. Yet they 
did, during the period of national prosperity, flock as readily to dramas 
of crime as to cup-and-saucer comedies. They had the outlook which 
made puritans acquire a thorough-going acquaintance with the scan- 
dals of night-life. 

On the other hand, flourishing trade did create a very natural 
optimism. Philanthropy promised a better land. Following the 
example of George Peabody, an American merchant who gave money 
and houses to the London poor, the City Corporation built a lodging- 
house for the poor; international and industrial exhibitions opened; 
slums were cleared to make way for new thoroughfares, railways, 
hospitals, embankments, viaducts and approaches to new bridges. 
Faith in Progress was shocked when disclosures were made that paupers 
were dying in workhouses through neglect. Strikes became frequent 
and unemployment increased until there was no ignoring the distress 
of the East End. There were also the bank failures of 1866 to bring 
poverty nearer home. But more and more exhibitions, and various 
associations for reforming and preventing, showed the general feeling 
of hopefulness in the most fashionable part of Town. What the most 
unfashionable part felt could find melodramatic expression because it 
had theatres of its own, vast in size, distinctive in character, not depen- 
dent on others for plays and players like the earlier theatres of the East. 


The Britannia, under Mrs. Sara Lane, had for playwright-in-ordinary 
C. H. Hazlewood, whose plays ran into hundreds. His Jessy Vere ; or, 
The Return Of The Wanderer in 1856 had a baronet who secretly marries 
a vicar's daughter and finds her a bar to his social success ; that was an 
old story but the sentiments were up to date. Jacob Thorne, a poor 
but honest labourer, asks, " Does not nature bless us with bounteous 
harvest, and flocks and herds in plenty ? But man — greedy, grasping 
man — stands like a fiend between the food of life and his fellow 
creatures." The Hon. Arthur Fanshawe, heir to a baronetcy, joins in 
the man-hunt when Jacob is falsely accused : 

Jessy What has the man done? 

Arthur [slightly intoxicated) 'Pon my life I don't know — something, 
I suppose, or if he has not, it's of no consequence ; he's a poor half- 
starved devil, and such people are fit for nothing else than to 
afford folks like us a little amusement. 

Yet the most popular dramatist was Shakespeare, " for the proper 
representation of whose works many talented performers are engaged ". 
This was also true of the Standard, Shoreditch, the Britannia's neigh- 
bour. As both places were rebuilt to house crowds of 3 ,000 a night 
the popularity of their performances, Shakespeare or melodrama, is 
manifest. John Douglass, who began as a pantomime child at Covent 
Garden, managed theatres at Gravesend and Chelsea while becoming 
one of the most popular of Jolly Jack Tars. In the 1860s he managed 
both the Standard and the Pavilion, Whitechapel. 

" From Mayhew's cyclopaedic work " was the strange derivation of 
an afterpiece, London Labour And London Poor ; or, Want And Vice, at 
the Whitechapel Pavilion in i860. It was a local drama of real life 
with scenes of thieves' kitchens, station-houses and boozing kens. A 
wife is persecuted by a roue, cornet in the Guards; her husband is 
tempted to crime by the cadger chief. " It is questionable how far it is 
provident to rivet the attention of an uneducated audience by a vivid 
representation of the social aspects of the outcasts of society ", was a 
critic's judgment. 


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io Brutal Realism 

The Lights O y London 

THERE can be no doubt that more and more realism was what the 
mid- Victorian public wanted. It moved Dickens to describe in " Our 
Mutual Friend " Rogue Riderhood's trade in drowned bodies. It sent 
the people who had gushed over the cutting of real bread and butter 
at the Prince of Wales's to gasp over the behaviour of stage crowds 
" picked from the streets " at the Princess's. It became such an obses- 
sion with Charles Reade that he garnered hard facts until his study was a 
store of press-cuttings, carefully indexed, to ensure that every novel or 
play he wrote should be "real". Who then could object? This 
public thronged to hangings until public executions were abolished 
in 1865. Refined, cultured people went to inspect lunatic asylums in 
the same way that they went to Madame Tussaud's. Nothing short of 
Jack-the-Ripper seemed able to make them shudder. They could wit- 
ness slum life in Tottenham Street and Newcastle Street unmoved, but 
the mere spectacle of a make-believe hospital ward was intolerably 
" gruesome " and a make-believe prison caused hysterics among 
strong-minded males. Inside theatres there were protests. Outside 
there were crowds eager to prod money through the pigeon-hole of 
the box-office. To blame critics as hypocrites would be too easy a 
way out ; they were like everybody else — unable to accept enjoyment 
as such. Wholesome plays exercised a man's better nature. Un- 
wholesome plays exercised his excessively active righteous indignation, 
and a man liked, without knowing it, nothing better. Nodding 
acquaintance with all the chapters written by Dickens about the seamy 
side of life would set young authors on the road to fortune. Facts 
taken fresh from newspapers would be too realistic — though what 
" too " means is problematical, since such questions as " for whom? " 
or " for what? " are never anticipated. 

When Reade wrote Gold for Drury Lane in 1853 he had acquired a 
well-documented knowledge of the mining fever in Australia. When 
he acquired a still more extensive knowledge of penal servitude in 
England, he used the same plot for his novel, " It's Never Too Late to 



Mend ", with chapters to serve as an exposure of the way prisons were 
run. Next he presented the old play with this new title and a brand- 
new prison scene in 1865 at the Princess's. No one could miss his 
faith in realism now. In Act I the farm boasted " all the details of 
Agricultural Life — The Farm Yard, Wall and Gate — The Straw Yard — 
The Duck Pond — The Barn — The Barley Mow — Pigeons, Ducks, 
Poultry, Animals, etc. etc." And in Act II the Model Prison, labelled 
" Abandon hope all ye who enter here ", exposed " the new system — 
Solitude — Silence and Starvation, represented by the Gaoler — two old 
systems — the Law and the Gospel, represented by the Chaplain — 
Despair and Death of Josephs under the new system — reformation by 
Robinson under the old system — Despair is the soul's worst enemy — 
1 My last word to you, and perhaps my last word to you in this world, 
is, It's never too late to mend '." 

Part of this meticulous care in representing actuality consisted of 
casting a lovely young actress for the boy, Josephs, who is kept at the 
tread-mill until he dies. The result was that a critic rose in his seat 
during this scene and loudly protested against its " brutal realism ". 
On the same spot some dozen years before, " Un-English " had been 
shouted at the French duel in The Corsican Brothers. At the Queen's, 
Long Acre, in 1871, Tom Taylor got into similar trouble for burning 
the beautiful Mrs. Rousby at the stake in his Joan Of Arc, though this 
time history was largely to blame. And yet, with all this susceptibility, 
combined with all this rigid attention to detail, the Princess's brought 
out a programme to mark a revival of Reade's drama in 1879 which 
read It's Never Too Late To Mend Gentlemen's and Youths' Clothing. 
The death of another youthful victim of law and order was a more 
enduring theatrical sensation when Bleak House was at last firmly set 
upon the stage. To modern eyes there may be a resemblance between 
Oliver Twist and Jo. Yet a sharp line of social history divides them. 
One came with the blessings of a public already in favour of befriending 
outcasts. The other's welcome was chilled by suspicion towards any- 
one in rags. Nebulous horror evoked by the mere mention of 
socialism, with its " damning desire to shirk work ", caused a damming 
of the sentimental tear — except, of course, in working-class districts, 
for " Bleak House " had been dramatized in 1853 at the Marylebone, 
City of London and Pavilion. When Mr. Peabody's philanthropy 
eloquently expressed what an American thought of London slums, 
public opinion was shamed into a reversal of feeling. This was the 
general cause of sympathy for Jo ; the particular was Jennie Lee. Her 
father, an artist, died while she was young and she walked on in the 
tights of opera bouffe at the Lyceum. In the next piece, Le Petit Faust, 



It's Never Too Late to Mend (Princess's, 1865) : The Australian Goldfields 

she won a word or two of praise for the way she plied, in silken rags, 
her besom as a crossing-sweeper. She became a favourite of Strand 
burlesque, especially as Jack Sheppard, and then went to New York. 
At San Francisco she married J. P. Burnett, actor-playwright, whose 
aim in life was to write a piece exactly suited to her. She saw herself as 
Dickens' pathetic little crossing-sweeper. 

So far Bleak House had taken rank on the American stage merely as 
one of the lesser works of Brougham, who had seen it as a vehicle for 
himself as Turveydrop. At the California Theatre the story became 
Jo. It was a success. Husband and wife came to England in the 
November of 1875 and acted his play as Bleak House at the Prince of 
Wales's, Liverpool. That Christmas Jennie Lee spent at the Surrey. 
In the February of 1867 she leased the Globe in the Drury Lane slums, 
and there Jo triumphed. The hoarse voice, the slouching, dejected 
gait, and the furtiveness of some hunted animal were acclaimed as 
" realism difficult to surpass " and yet not " too ", however illogical 
this may seem now. 

The initial run of over a hundred performances gives an inadequate 
idea of Jennie Lee's success. With another supporting company, 


mostly changed although the author was still " Inspector Buckett of 
the Detectives " and Kate Lee still Guster, she started another run the 
next year, and from then on there would be no slackening in the 
demand. Nor would there be any slackening of the attempts at 
imitation, beginning in 1876 with Bleak House at the Pavilion, Eliza 
Thome's Bleak House ; or, Poor Jo at Sheffield, and Joe The Waif at 
Greenwich. The next five or six years would produce Jo The Waif; 
or, The Mystery OfChesny Wold at the Liverpool Rotunda, and James 
Mortimer's Move On ; or, The Crossing Sweep at the Fulham Grand. 
Burnett wrote Midge as a successor, but the public wanted Jo and 
nothing but Jo as far as this particular Jennie Lee (there was then 
another Jennie Lee on the stage) was concerned. She toured first the 
provinces, then Australia, Africa, India and China, with greater 
triumphs than ever awaiting her at Drury Lane. 

More helpful feelings towards waifs and strays might reasonably be 
ascribed to one actress. There must still be taken into account a 
similar influence over a still greater public by the irrepressible Dennery. 
With another collaborator in 1874 he wrote for the Porte-Saint- 
Martin Les Deux Orphelines, which for blood and thunder was the best 
version of the Babes in the Wood ever acted. It is a melodrama of the 
eighteenth century in Paris, with view of the Seine, bureau of the 
minister of police, and cells in the Salpetriere all complete. From the 
frou frou of silk and satin, the clatter of glasses and laughter, during a 
midsummer night's fete in a petite maison an bel-air, the scene changes to 
deep winter in the parvis of Saint-Sulpice. The evil Marquis de 
Presles has robbed Louise of her inheritance. Now she begs in the 
snow on the church steps. But she has faithful friends. Both 
Henriette, the other orphan who is her constant companion, and Pierre 
Frochard, the crippled knife-grinder, are resolved to protect her. 
When the helpless girls are sent to the Salpetriere, Pierre discovers that 
his brother, the wild, burly ruffian Jacques, holds the power of life and 
death over Louise. In the garret of La Frochard (their horrific 
mother) villain and hero draw their knives for the finest duel in the 
whole struggle of virtue against vice. Nobody protested. 

That September Oxenford brought out Two Orphans at the Olympic. 
In the October Paul Meritt and George Conquest put on The Blind 
Sister at the Grecian Theatre ; in the November the East London fol- 
lowed with The Blind GirYs Fortune. What Jo was to one actress The 
Two Orphans was to pairs of actresses by dozens. In New York a 
version " specially adapted " for the Union Square Theatre (which 
Jennie Lee had just left on her way to meet fate) ran from the December 
of 1874 to the following June. Kate Claxton, the blind orphan, 



The Two Orphans (Olympic, 1874) : Rignold and Neville setting a new standard for 
realism in stage fights 

bought the rights and toured the play until Hollywood turned it into 
a tale of the Revolution, Orphans Of The Storm, and film-fans thought 
the play " left out something ". 

In Europe its popularity was not so constant, for its place was 
usurped by the work of authors who came under its influence. That 
scene in the garret, for example, was the making of one London play- 
wright, G. R. Sims, who had another kind of fame, widespread among 
people who knew nothing of his writings beyond his signature, as the 
unintentional abolitionist of antimacassars. Though old people may 
be bored by the statement, young people are frankly shocked to learn 
that these protected upholstery from macassar oil on the flowing 
manes of young Victorian lions. The nuisance was abated by a new 
hair-restorer bearing the portrait of G. R. Sims. Infants who learned 
to lisp his name before they heard of Shakespeare would always 
associate him with shelves of bottles rather than shelves of books. Yet 
he undoubtedly deserves honourable mention for his share in what 
embittered critics called " the exposition of the gospel of rags ". It is 
usually supposed that the task was handed down to him by Dickens, 
for Ruskin's share has been overlooked. Something more tangible was 
borrowed from The Two Orphans by the two dramas that made (in 
this branch of human endeavour) Sims' name. 

The first was The Lights O' London at the Princess's in 188 1. In this, 
trouble begins when Harold Armytage and Bess keep their marriage 


secret. Old Armytage, suspecting seduction because the girl is his 
lodge-keeper's daughter, disinherits his son. Clifford, a nephew, 
becomes the heir at Armytage Hall, where he seduces the daughter of 
another retainer, Seth Preene. There is robbery with violence and 
Harold is the victim of circumstantial evidence. He is sentenced to 
hard labour but escapes. While hunted by the police he is given 
shelter in a showman's caravan until he finds his wife. They become 
outcasts, vagabonds of the casual wards. One evening in Regent's 
Park, when the " real " boy from the real Park has removed the chairs, 
they wander to " the Slips ". There the villainous nephew, angry at 
being asked to marry the girl he has ruined, happens at the moment to 
be throwing her father over the bridge into the canal. Harold dives to 
the rescue and Seth Preene swears, " You have saved my life. I will 
save yours." 

The scene of the Borough on Saturday night exposes, " the dirt and 
degradation of London life, where drunkenness, debauchery and de- 
pravity are shown in all their naked hideousness ". The escaped con- 
vict is hiding in a garret, where he is found by his cousin. There is a 
deadly fight but it is interrupted by the police. Harold crawls along a 
roof, drops to the street below, and struggles among a yelling crowd 
until overwhelmed at last. When the scene changes swiftly to a 
police-station, with the same crowd surging outside, Seth Preene is 
there to confess how he and the villainous nephew were guilty of the 

At the Princess's in 1882, Sims' The Romany Rye, founded on his 
own novel, "Rogues and Vagabonds", was pronounced "bad and 
mischievous ". From a fancier's shop full of real birds and real 
rabbits, the villain tried to abduct the screaming heroine. After her 
wedding a ship bore her away while the bridegroom was decoyed into 
Ratcliffe Highway in order to be " bashed " by hired murderers — the 
Thames was then well-stocked with " bashed bodies " through un- 
detected crimes — who dragged him to a slimy cellar. There they 
bound him to a hook in a wall while an old hag (who reminded every- 
body of La Frochard) prepared to hocus him with a sleeping draught. 
But as he resembled her long-lost son, she let him merely pretend to be 
drugged before the scene changed to a beautiful picture of the moonlit 
Thames. The boat put out. He knocked out the bashers, reached the 
ship just as it was sinking, hacked his way through spars and shrouds, 
and swam with his bride to a lifeboat. 

Late Victorianism showed at its best in Sims. His friendliness, his 
frankness, his air of well-being, made him the most popular of journa- 
lists. " Early in the 'eighties ", his autobiography mentions, " I 



The Romany Rye (Princess's, 1882) : with Wilson Barrett as Jack Hearne and Mary 
Eastlake as Gertie Heckett 

wrote a series of special articles — ' Horrible London '." Plain records 
give them a place in the history of London as the cause of " much 
excitement " to improve matters. For a dozen years his pen was en- 
gaged on the business of pleasure until chance brought it back to a play 
about waifs and strays — Les Deux Gosses, by Pierre Decourcelle, whose 


faithful representation of a hospital ward was a triumph for realism at 
the Ambigu in the February of 1896. Sims and Shirley went at once 
to see it, wrote their English version which they called a " new and 
original melodrama " partly because it left out the hospital — too 
daring an idea even for Sims — and staged it at the Princess's on 21 May 
as The Two Boys for a single copyright performance. When thrown 
open to the public in the September it had the irresistible title of The 
Two Little Vagabonds. At the start there is a matrimonial quarrel. In 
the bitterness of his heart George Thornton apprentices his infant son, 
Dick, to a burglar. But the boy devotes his time to caring for a sickly 
companion, Wally, who goes home with him when the Thorntons 
make it up ; and now Dick's peculiar education comes in useful, for 
he rescues his father from a blackmailer's den by helping him through a 
skylight. On their way home they cross a canal by the lock and open 
the sluice-gates; their pursuer, close upon them, misses his foothold 
and is drowned. After that nothing remains except the death-bed 
scene of Wally for the sake of tidying things up. It sounds just the 
kind of play to make East Lynne more popular than ever, but this is 
reckoning without current faith in the virtue of slumming. Two 
Little Vagabonds ran for the better part of a year, and was revived after 
two or three months. It was still more popular on tour. 

There was profit in realism, no matter how the term was interpreted. 
The real live rabbit gave pleasure ; so did the unreal death of the actress 
pretending to be a boy on the stage-carpenter's tread-mill. What did 
these two have in common? Costume dramas were still nourishing 
(and Shakespeare was popular when the real live rabbit appeared in the 
Forest of Arden) despite the strong liking for modern dress. Hence 
it was not romance that was out of favour. Playgoers were striving to 
break away from melodrama. The more they tried the more they 
sank, for realism was accentuating villainy and heroism. With a 
prodigious effort virtue was, in fashionable theatres, bidden not to 
triumph. But it did so still, by clear implication, because all that could 
be set up in its place was a warning that the wages of sin is death. This 
new and rather depressing kind of melodrama enabled people to feel 
they were keeping abreast of the times — to them it was real. Yet 
each attempt to bring imagination nearer to actuality caused angry 
alarm. Zola never stepped beyond the bounds of melodrama. " The 
wages of sin is death " is all he had to say. But in saying it he demon- 
strated that the unspeakable was speakable. Vizetelly, who translated 
his novels, went to prison for giving it voice in England. 

In Therese Raquin Zola offered Paris a masterpiece of the 1870s' brand 
of realism. There is an old woman who becomes helpless and speech- 


less on discovering that her son has been killed by her daughter-in-law, 
Therese, with a lover's aid. While the murderers attempt to enjoy 
the freedom and possessions their crime has brought them, she fixes 
them with a glare of implacable hate that changes to gloating over their 
misery. When this play, the classic of its period, failed in his own 
country, Zola expressed what he thought of the stage in criticism and 
essays. He wrote no more plays and he disowned L' Assommoir, 
dramatized from his novel by Busnach and Gastineau, which was 
played at the Ambigu in 1879. Sala went there, intending to be dis- 
gusted in print. On the way he stopped at an actual assommoir and 
found it rather worse than Zola's ; since he published lurid details that 
were not in the novel, he was plainly of the same mind as the novelist. 
Self-deception was infinitely preferable to admitting that. A good 
word must not be said for Zola, but a bad word had to be said for the 
play, however much the public might like it. Sala " sat out " several 
scenes — the squalid garret with the abandonment of Gervaise by Lautier, 
the laundry with the " abominable fight " between Gervaise and Vir- 
ginie, the Boulevard de la Chapelle with the blacksmith's speech about 
temperance, the restaurant garden with the double-wedding feast of 
Gervaise-Coupeau and Virginie-Poisson, the street with the fall of 
Coupeau from a roof, the grand dinner on Gervaise's saint's day, and 
the assommoir itself. The sordid characters on the stage had been 
drinking and smoking and gobbling for three mortal hours and a half. 
Everybody had changed his or her shabby garments three or four 
times over. To Sala it was a masquerade of rags. " I dare say that it 
was all very realistic; but so is Seven Dials on a Saturday night. 
Seven times had the curtain descended. ... I was told that there was a 
beautiful scene coming of a padded room at a hospital, where the 
alcoholized Coupeau, in the saltatory stage of delirium tremens, dances 
himself to death. I thought I would not wait for the discovery of the 
remains of Gervaise in the hole under the staircase, and * quite green ' ; 
so I went to bed." 

To yawn would always be the best way out of the difficulty. Sala, 
whose bottle-scarred nose hung out like an inn-sign proclaiming good 
fare within, was more inclined to be shocked by the apostrophe in 
favour of temperance than by alcoholized antics, but he had to write 
for a public which regarded itself as a child playing with fire and chid- 
ing itself. All who read " L' Assommoir " discussed it as " too " — and 
hastened to the Princess's when Charles Reade's version, Drink, began 
its run there in 1879 of 222 — this, the actual figure, is not meant as a 
pun — performances. There had been modifications to appease the 
censor, but still the trump card was a display of delirium tremens. 


Charles Warner, recently seen as Robinson in a revival of It's Never Too 
Late To Mend, was Coupeau, and he won fervent praise for his acting 
in this scene. Since the sternest puritans were forced to admire it, there 
might seem no reasonable complaint against either Zola or the play- 
wrights for having provided the actor with his opportunity. 

Consistency was no obstacle. ' What moral end is to be gained 
by the spectacle of two passionate women drenching each other with 
buckets of water, or of a man dying of delirium tremens, when these 
spectacles are merely the illusions of the stage, we confess ourselves 
unable to comprehend," was a pronouncement that ended, " Such 
subjects have no place in the legitimate province of art ". This view 
must not be called old-fashioned. It was new-fashioned by the stand- 
ard of playgoers who admired O. Smith in a similar display. In The 
London Stage, Barton Baker says that in " one of the old dramas, I be- 
lieve it was Peter Bell ", he played the part of a drunkard, and in one 
scene he had to upset a cup of liquor. With a cry of horror he cast 
himself upon the stage and ravenously licked up the spilled drink. Had 
it been weakly done it would have raised a laugh ; the way he did it 
sent a shudder through the house. 

Similarly Warner now, in the words of another critic, " sent a 
sensible thrill of horror through the crowded and excited audience ". 
His voice, looks and gestures were " horribly realistic " — the unsteady 
walk, the thin yet bloated face, the wandering eyes, the lean, live 
fingers that clutch at nothingness and are never quiet. When his 
eager wife goes out, Coupeau is left alone with the supposed claret 
which Virginie has sent in. With trembling hands he unwraps the 
bottle and takes out the cork. Then a spasm of horrible delight thrills 
him as he finds it is brandy. He crouches at the other end of the room, 
putting all the space possible from table to wall between himself and the 
tempter. The doctors say it will kill him, " but then, doctors tell 
such lies ". He will just taste it. With gleaming eyes and convulsive 
fingers, he approaches the table and seizes the bottle. When his wife 
comes back it is empty and he dies raving. 

Feelings were still more violently outraged by " Nana ", which Zola 
published in 1880 and which he assisted Busnach to dramatize a year 
later. Public modesty had recovered from the affronts put upon 
it by Dumas fils, whose daughter-of-shame had, at least, been repentant. 
This new one was as unblushing as Shakespeare's Bianca in Othello. 
There was an outcry, of course, because Nana was not in historical 
dress, and the only English adaptation to be granted the Lord Chamber- 
lain's licence was a curious hybrid between Zola's novel and La Dame 
Aux Camelias. It was by a Mrs. Kennion, who called her work Nina ; 


or, The Story Of A Heart and tried it upon Wigan before bringing it to 
the Strand in 1887. For the first time the demand for seemliness had 
to be taken seriously. Nana would stay under the ban until too old- 
fashioned to interest playgoers. (In time it would be filmed, but by 
then Zola's world would have shrivelled into printer's ink and paper.) 

ii Drawing-Room Drama 

Jim The Penman 

SINCE it was the Bancrofts who brought the atmosphere of the 
drawing-room into the theatre, their cup-and-saucer comedies may be 
confused with the drama named after so peaceful a place. But while 
they were chiefly concerned with bringing its furbishings into the 
auditorium, the term " Dra wing-Room Drama " refers to what occurs 
on the stage. It is the kind of melodrama on which the curtain does 
not rise until deeds of blood and violence are past — until, that is, the 
characters are living in well-bred retirement, surrounded by outward 
and visible signs of respectability, and so far removed from the sen- 
sational occurrences which have set the plot in motion that their 
gestures, movements, language, and manner are controlled by polite 
restraint. Here, then, is that retrospective method of telling a story 
which created such a fuss when employed by famous dramatists, but 
the " Drawing-Room Drama " is of more importance for another 
development. Special attention must be paid to its vogue in the 1880s 
because it modified the public's moral attitude. The change may 
appear technical if baldly stated, but when its effect on the susceptibility 
of middle-aged men in beards or waxed moustaches is noted, it reveals 
itself as far more revolutionary than most theatrical fashions of the 

All that it amounted to was that criminals, while not unsympathetic- 
ally treated even though in modern dress, could occupy the limelight 
instead of being execrated in minor positions. Twenty years earlier 
the Mathews' sponsorship of Black Sheep had been treated as the 
temporary lapse of usually reliable people, but the objective attitude to 
dishonesty shown in that play was now to become the mode. Since 
it follows so hard upon " Nana ", the influence of Zola may be seen in 
this, for people who are at first obstinate over small things do become 
more tractable after being rudely shaken by big things. Those old 
susceptibles had been shocked, and it had done them a power of 
good. Henceforward anything the drawing-room drama might do 
while maintaining an air of ease and refinement would be tolerated. 



XXXVII (above) Jim The Penman (Haymarket, 
1886) : E. S. Willard, who succeeded Arthur 

Dacre, as the forger 

XXXVIII (right) Captain Swift (Haymarket, 1888) : 

Beerbohm Tree as Wilding 

XXXIX (below) The Still Alarm (Princess's, 1888) 


XL The World (Drury Lane, 1880) : Ultra-sensational 


XLI A Run of Luck (Drury Lane, 1886) : (L. to R.) E. W. Gardiner, William Rignold, Harry Nicholls, 
Sophie Eyre, Alma Murray, and J. G. Grahame 


The next black sheep in Savile Row clothing would be positively 

So Sir Charles Young perceived. As men of title were rare in the 
theatre he had been overwhelmed with good advice directly he turned 
playwright. One manager wanted him to steal Wagner's plots, and 
another told him, belatedly, that he must provide a sensation scene. 
When he wrote his last play, the year before his death, he pleased him- 
self. The title of this drama, staged at the Haymarket in 1886, was the 
nickname of a notorious social pest— James Townsend Saward, a bar- 
rister who was transported in 1857 for cheque forgeries which menaced 
the " entire mercantile community ". The real names of contem- 
poraries were ruled out by the censorship, but Jim The Penman was 
allowed to stay and the drawing-room drama, with Lady Monckton 
as leading lady, came into its own. Compared with this " romance of 
modern society " Diplomacy is rough house. The sole breach of good 
manners occurs when Captain Redwood, left alone in the conservatory, 
pretends to fall asleep. With an assumed slothfulness which enables 
him to eavesdrop, he is the new type of detective which always would, 
according to quite a number of authors, be new. Pressure is brought 
upon James Ralston, an international jewel-thief who is thought to be a 
City gentleman of some standing, to steal the family diamonds of his 
future son-in-law. When he relents, his chief accomplice (Baron Hart- 
feld, who was played by Tree) opposes him and a fatal heart-attack 
saves a lot of future trouble. 

Once more a stage death challenges comparison with life, for this 
story makes less impression than the story of its leading actor. Dr. 
Arthur James paid a considerable sum in 1877 for a Kensington practice. 
The next year he sold out, left word that he had gone abroad for his 
health, and vanished — to reappear in America as an actor under the 
name of Arthur Dacre. With very little experience but great confi- 
dence in his good looks, he came back to London as a star and was wel- 
comed at first. But when he tried to divorce his wife he was " the 
object of the execrations of the virtuous gods " ; his petition failed. 
His wife divorced him, and he married a Miss Hawkins of Lillie Road, 
Fulham, who made considerable headway on the stage under the name 
of Amy Roselle : she was tender and winsome in her acting, she adored 
her handsome husband, and he shared her opinion. She suited herself 
to her husband's engagements. So much has been written about his 
" inordinate vanity " and insane love of histrionics in private life, that a 
letter of his, concerning his part in Jim The Penman, may help to explain 
his mentality (though as eight pages are covered with his writing it 
cannot be quoted in full). 


Dacre wants the author to go over the part with him scene by scene 
and sentence by sentence. Neither in this nor in what follows — the 
discussion of terms — is there any sign of egotism until the last lines : 
" I have under consideration a joint offer for my wife and myself— as 
soon as she is well enough — I will give you an answer soon — but if I 
hear to-morrow I will throw it over to play in your piece." At length 
Amy Roselle signed a contract with Irving for the Lyceum. She 
seemed likely to be restored to her place on the West End stage. In- 
stead she became her husband's leading lady, although even the 
provinces welcomed them no more. They went to Australia. At 
Sydney they took the leading parts in a New Zealand melodrama, The 
Land OfMoa, by George Leitch, in 1895. While they were rehearsing 
for the next season despair overtook him. One morning, in their 
hotel bedroom, Dacre shot his wife, wounded himself with the next 
bullet and then cut his throat. When the servants broke in, he was 
clutching the mantelpiece and crying " Oh, the pain, the pain ", until 
he died. 

Sensation dramas at popular houses made no pretence of being at all 
like events off the stage, but the drawing-room drama did insinuate 
that what was happening to its characters could happen to anyone. 
Without such attempted justification, this type of play would have been 
seen as merely the last scene of melodrama long drawn out, in which 
case an audience might well consider it had been cheated. Careers of 
crime were over before the curtain rose — too late for anything but 
repentance. A play which took the place of Jim The Penman at the 
Haymarket, with Lady Monckton again as an inwardly suffering wife 
and Tree as another presentable rogue, illustrated this admirably. The 
author was Haddon Chambers, an Australian stock-rider who arrived 
in London at the age of twenty determined to starve until he had made 
his way as a writer for the stage. After eight years of journalism he 
" arrived " in 1888 with Captain Swift. The hero is a bushranger, 
friendless in London until he stops a runaway hansom and is invited by 
its occupant to a house where the hostess happens to be his mother, 
the butler his foster-brother, and the daughter's fiance a stock-rider he 
once held up in Australia. If only there had been a prologue about his 
birth, several scenes of bushranging, and a real runaway cab, the long 
arm of coincidence — the author's own phrase — would have been not 
only pardonable but commendable as true to the very soul of sensation. 
Anyhow the play succeeded because it was a drama in the latest style. 
The detective arrives. Captain Swift escapes. He is still clever enough 
to avoid arrest by following the sleuth instead of being followed. But 
the love of two moderately good women (his newly-found mother and 


an heiress he has drawn away from his half-brother) is too much for 
him. He shoots himself. Why? Out of respect for any respectable 
audience's feelings. 

Captain Swift with its simplified setting might be compared with 
H. J. Byron's Haunted Houses ! or, Labyrinths Of Life. A Story Of 
London And The Bush ! billed at the Princess's in 1872. Its scenes in- 
cluded a cabman's lodgings, section of the brig " Eclipse ", landscape in 
Australia with war dance of aborigines, and the completion of some 
" deadly design " in haunted houses at Penge. 

12 Play Panoramic 

or Ultra-Sensational 

The Great City 

VERY little was needed to turn realism into a game. A thrilled 
audience thought the property railway-engine ran true to life ; a bored 
audience said it ran true to the nursery. While After Dark was at the 
Princess's in 1868, Watts Phillips presented the Surrey with Land Rats 
And Water Rats, whose heroine, a beautiful Covent Garden market- 
woman (one idea never copied 1 ), was placed inert upon the track. 
All the thanks he got for keeping up with the fashion was a critic's com- 
ment that the jerky express was " much given to shutting itself up 
telescopically ". Boucicault was wiser : his Rescued put steam loco- 
motion to a fresh use at the Adelphi in 1879. The villain causes a 
swing-bridge to open because the passengers travelling towards the 
gap include the infant heir to vast estates. Down stage the heroine 
swings on a lever in the signal-box : up stage the distant bridge closes 
and a toy train rattles over a toy viaduct to safety. While Boucicault 
thus dropped the bound-and-gagged idea and stuck to the railway, 
Daly dropped the railway and stuck to bound-and-gagged in his drama 
of 1868, The Red Scarf. The hero is tied to a log that bears him almost 
to the mill with rescue music accompanying the shriek of the circular 
saw — which was so good a sensation that it continued on the stage, in 
other plays, long after The Red Scarf had been forgotten. 

Realism was solely in the eye of the beholder. Scenes might possess 
this quality one year and lose it the next, and recover it when removed 
to some less pernickety theatre. So much depended not on what was 
viewed but on how it was viewed that almost any melodramatic 
spectacle of contemporary life could be acclaimed as the real origin of 
realism on a panoramic scale. Some have given all credit to The Great 
City, written by Andrew Halhday for Drury Lane at Easter, 1867, 

1 This rash statement must be amended. Covent Garden Market was repre- 
sented by a ballet at the Empire, Leicester Square. " Covent Garden Market ", 
said Sir Max Beerbohm, " is not like that. Don't you wish it were ? " 



because its beggars, police, paupers and swells showed the " extremes of 
St. James's and Giles's ", on top of which a real hansom drove up to the 
make-believe toll-keeper's box by the canvas Waterloo Bridge, and 
The Railway Station realized " Frith's celebrated picture ". If all this 
should be considered epoch-making, it was not acclaimed as such by 
Drury Lane, which employed Halliday in future upon costume dramas 
mostly based on Scott. Nor, according to outsize playbills sold in the 
streets like newspapers, did the Adelphi change. In the early 1870s its 
stage sparkled with stars of the early 1840s. Ben Webster himself 
returned to the footlights during the 1873 boom in Wandering Jews. 
The Adelphi came first with one by Leopold Lewis. Webster took a 
leading part. His legs gave way and he sat down suddenly on the 
stage. Characters who had sworn never to stretch out a hand to him 
even if he were drowning, helped him gently to his feet. After that he 
decided to go on tour. In 1 875 he retired finally. His farewell benefit 
at Drury Lane had help from all London's leading players, and 2,000 
guineas was the record result. Not long afterwards he was given up 
for dead : " Well, sir ! I felt a queer suffocating sensation ; something 
was over my face. I snatched away the sheet — for such it was. I was 
alone. But there was a light in the room. So I got out of bed, put on 
my dressing-gown and slippers, and went down into the parlour. 
There, sir, sat my friends, drinking whiskey and water — my whiskey, 
sir — and saying, ' Well, poor old Ben's gone at last ! ' ' Am I ? ' said I. 
You may guess what a turn the fellows had. But I was not going to 
let off the doctor, you know. We guessed he hadn't gone far. I 
dressed quickly; and, true enough, we found him at a neighbouring 
pothouse, sitting with his back to the door, and eating tripe and onions, 
sir, with a gin bottle by his side, quite comfortable. ' A pretty fellow 
you are to send me out of the world before my time ! ' I shouted. 
We all thought he was going off in a fit then and there, instead 
of me." 

In the July of 1882 Webster really did die. To the last he had kept 
his name on the Adelphi playbills, as sole proprietor, and his ghost 
seemed to reign there for a few more years because of the * grand 
revivals " of melodramas celebrated in his day. These included Uncle 
Tom's Cabin in the same bill as a Christmas pantomime, besides a 
ventriloquial performance by Lieutenant Cole, whose dummy added 
to the language the once-prevalent catch-phrase of, " Chuck it, Cole ". 
Old plays were still preferred to new even though new actresses were 
preferred to old. Lydia Foote, whose assumed surname concealed the 
unseemly reality of Legge, was glamorous enough to justify a revival of 
Lost In London. There was masculine glamour to match hers when 


William Terriss appeared in a new version by Halliday of Nicholas 

Obviously there was a temporary revolt against brutal realism. 
Perhaps a story of Tom Robertson's early struggles may show how this 
operated in an author's mind. On being shown into a nursery when a 
rice-pudding was on the table, he burst into tears — his own children 
were starving. Yet he wrote the scene of a roly-poly pudding in Ours 
without an inkling that hungry men before Sebastopol regarded food 
as anything but a joke. That was realism without reality. Little 
Gerty, The Lamplighter's Daughter turned this the other way round. It 
was adapted by George Lander from a novel, " The Lamplighter ' , 
for the Prince of Wales's, Liverpool, in 1876. Gerty, an unwashed 
Cinderella unromanticized, is driven out of doors into the snow, though 
" The scene should not be painted as if covered with snow, as it would 
be out of place when it is used again in the last Act ". There is a 
preposterous plot with a fire at sea as its sensation. At last in " The 
Churchyard, as in Act I (no snow) ", the comic servant recalls how he 
caught gold-fever in California and there heard a confession, and so 
gives Gerty 's father back his good name. It is about as far-fetched as a 
story could be, but when the child confesses to having eaten " the 
make-weight " 1 any audience would know there was such a thing as 
hunger. This, of course, was Jo's doing. Dickens at third or fourth 
hand was more natural than " naturalism ". 

Should plays mean anything or nothing? There was no harm in 
meaning nothing, for excitement was valued for its own sake : scenic 
marvels had been more important than morals ever since Boucicault 
began. But what was indignantly called " the play panoramic or 
ultra-sensational " went further. There was a time, mourned an old- 
fashioned critic like a child with more cake than it could eat, when one 
sensation scene was sufficient for any play, but now one was needed 
for each act. The lament deserves its place in the history of grumbling. 
As one more glimpse of realism, The Still Alarm by Joseph Arthur, 
an American drama brought to the Princess's in 1889, is peculiar. 
From the programme it would seem that the performance was meant 
to demonstrate (a) the use of fire-escapes in public buildings and (b) the 
social welfare of firemen. " Surely ", D. L. Murray comments, " one 
of these cases where the title makes a play." What read like a terrify- 
ing hint of cataplexy, the mesmeric state 'twixt waking and sleeping 
caused by a sudden shock of fear, merely meant that villains had put 
the bell out of order. 

1 When loaves were sold by weight a slice of bread had to be supplied with one 
that was underweight. 

U >n • " 

13 Grecian Dramatists 

New Babylon 

THE comic servant of the evil land-lubber in Jerrold's The Mutiny At 
The Nore was played at the Coburg in 1830 by an actor born Oliver 
and christened Benjamin, who called himself Conquest. He made 
good the boast by gaining control of an extensive pleasure resort on the 
way between Sadler's Wells and the Britannia. Resolves to " elevate 
the masses " left many marks on London midway through the nine- 
teenth century, and more than one such enterprise developed from the 
sale of strong drink. In the grounds of the Eagle Tavern an opera 
house was built with the name of the Grecian. From 1 851 it set out to 
rival the Wells with Shakespeare before finding its proper level with 
melodrama. It was now under the Conquests. 1 Benjamin Oliver 
lived from 1804 to 1872; his wife, Columbine and ballet-mistress, 
from 1803 to 1867. George Augustus, their eldest child, was born 
under his father's management at the Garrick, Whitechapel, in 1837, 
and narrowly escaped burning with that theatre in his boyhood. 
After starting his stage career as a beetle he went to a school at Boulogne 
and sat, he used to say, on the same bench as Coquelin, whose father 
kept a tuck shop. 

At the age of twenty George Conquest married the most promising 
pupil of his mother's academy for dancers. The skill he acquired from 
pantomime he gave fully to Shakespeare before bestowing the experi- 
ence gained in both upon melodrama. Yet another source of know- 
ledge, altogether different, was his. Ever since his schooldays he had 
collected French plays ; he read them all and remembered them ; Tom 
Taylor and Boucicault together had not such a comprehensive know- 
ledge of plots from France. He was often first with the latest Paris 
fashion. L'Ange De Minuit, by Barriere and Plouvier, staged at the 
Ambigu on 5 March, 1861, appeared in English at the Grecian on 20 
May, 1 86 1 ; John Brougham's version did not reach the Princess's until 

1 " Conquest, the Story of a Theatrical Family ", by Frances Fleetwood, was 
published in 1953. 



the February of 1862, following an autumn season in New York, where 
it had been presented at Barnum's under the same roof as a real live 
hippopotamus. It was the very mildest of Faust stories. A doctor is 
granted all his heart's desires on condition that he does not cure patients 
wanted by the Angel, but when either his mother or his wife must be 
the next victim he appeals to heaven. The double-crossed Angel, 
before departing, gives him her blessing. 

" Grecian " drama, though it owed much to France, took its stamp 
from the leading author's determination to be the leading actor and 
from his desire to reveal one or other of his two special powers. In 
pantomime both came into play. In melodrama one might be enough. 
Either he made a phantom night (which meant that he leapt, sprang or 
dived through star-traps in stage or scenery) or else he transformed him- 
self into some surprising, unexpected, possibly unheard-of creature — 
on a visit to Wallack's he came a cropper while impersonating a 
twenty-five-foot worm. He was the most agile and inventive of 
actors. In the trap-door class there is Hand And Glove ; or, Page 13 Of 
The Black Book, by George Conquest and Paul Meritt, Grecian picture 
of contemporary London life in 1874. Conquest was Hand, a detec- 
tive, who watches through a hole in the ceiling what his partner, Glove, 
is plotting with the poisonous Colonel Raven. There is a quarrel in the 
room below over some evidence that will prove who murdered a lady. 
When backs are turned, Hand harpoons the papers with a toasting- 
fork, reads them and puts them back. The police arrive to arrest 
falsely-accused innocence in another room of this cross-section. Hand 
" comes through ceiling " like a little god-in-the-machine and puts 
things right. 

In his expansive moments Paul Meritt, who was of Slav ancestry, 
told various picturesque but discrepant stories of his origins, claiming 
among other things descent from the Polish national hero Jan Sobieski. 
He was a clerk in a carpet warehouse until stage-fever took him to the 
Grecian, where he stood at " Exit " in the interval with pass-out checks 
for playgoers who wanted to drink at the Eagle. In this way he became 
the local dramatist, and an object of interest up and down the City Road 
because of the reedy falsetto voice which issued from his enormous 
bulk. " In and out the Eagle " was not his habit. Food was his failing. 
Even when the standing of a man-about-town was his for the asking he 
could not resist the eating-houses where he could buy pease pudding 
and then walk, picking it out of its paper, down the Strand. He took 
his stage name during his Grecian life, when his job was to string to- 
gether accidents and offences, crimes and catastrophes, hero and heroine, 
persuasive and persuaded villains, and newly-married comics, before 


the time came for dialogue to suit the stage-carpenter's convenience 
according to whatever prison or precipice, rail-smash or shipwreck, 
waterfall or earthquake, heaven or hell, needed to be brought out of 
the scene-dock before the moths got at it. Keeping pace with ener- 
getic scene-shifters was hard work. Another stage-struck, would-be 
author, tall, lanky and hook-nosed, was allowed to help. Inspired 
by the manager's example of turning Oliver to Conquest, Metzger 
suggested to his new partner, " I'll be Meritt and you be Success ". 
But the newcomer, not liking this strong smack of the Brothers Knock- 
about, stuck to his own name of Henry Pettitt. There was nothing of 
the stage in his upbringing apart from a childhood's prank at Sadler's 
Wells, where he went on in a crowd and got badly knocked about 
through fighting too realistically. He was a writing-master before 
making the change in his career that led to a fortune of nearly .£50,000. 
From a school at Camden Town he set out on his travels, first as 
advance agent for a circus in which he played Tybalt in Romeo And 
Juliet on horseback. As business manager of an opera company he 
was kept so short of funds that he stole the proprietor's Christmas goose 
so that the singers should not go without a Christmas dinner. Such 
adventures did not teach him stagecraft, nor was he born with it, since 
his father was a civil engineer. Yet as soon as he entered the Grecian as 
its treasurer, at the age of nineteen, Pettitt turned dramatist. With 
Meritt he wrote British Born, which was so full of patriotism that it was 
immediately bought by Belasco and presented as American Born in San 

When rebuilt in 1877 the Grecian was advertised as " one of the 
largest and most beautiful theatres in London, and capable of holding 
nearly 5,000 persons ". The opening piece by Conquest and Pettitt 
was Bound To Succeed ; or, A Leaf From The Captain s Log Book, a tale of 
Muscular Christianity (so the programmes said) from Tasmania to 
Tasmania Dock, with the manager as an inventive genius and his son 
as " a nervous gentleman ". When offered £21,000 for his theatre 
(by an aspiring impresario who soon parted with it at a loss to the 
Salvation Army), Conquest transferred to the Surrey and made that 
birthplace of melodrama the scene of its renaissance. The old house, 
keeping up its old habits, had been burned down in 1865. The new 
house had a proscenium of a size worthy to frame the most awful 
disasters the new proprietor could think of, but before his arsenal of 
terror-striking appliances could start production, Meritt and Pettitt 
had been inveigled into exploiting Grecian drama for somebody else's 
benefit. Drury Lane was now under the command of a young actor, 
Augustus Harris, son of the Augustus Harris who had staged grand 


opera at Her Majesty's and Covent Garden for many years. Out- 
wardly they were unlike, for the father, long-haired and clean-shaven, 
suggested a German musician, while the son had the affably expansive 
smile of a salesman. But opera, very grand and foreign, was for both 
the greatest of life's glories. From this both derived their ideas of 
stage-management, which they bestowed upon the drama lavishly, 
extravagantly and sometimes deplorably. 

Augustus Harris pere, as senior manager of the Princess's in i860, 
prevailed upon James Anderson, a leading tragedian of the day, to play 
Macbeth amid " new effects ". When Duncan was being murdered 
the witches exulted in a transparency high up in the castle wall ; their 
platform gave way, all were injured and one of them died. Then 
Banquo's ghost appeared in a transparent pillar where the lighting set 
his wig on fire. Under the same management, Les Couteaux D'Or of 
Paul Feval became The Golden Daggers by Edmund Yates, when 
Fechter appeared at the Princess's in 1862. Its sensation was a duel in 
punts on the Thames. The pleasant picture of moonlit water repre- 
sented by steel gauze was spoilt when the punts would not move an 
inch without dragging the metal net after them. 

The younger Harris regularly produced similar effects. Sometimes 
there were blunders bad enough to wreck any ordinary management. 
But his was not ordinary. " Seldom ", states the Dramatic Peerage of 
1892, " can one chronicle so brilliant and successful a career " — when he 
was at the age of forty. The dazzlement began only twelve years 
earlier and was to last, because of his early death, only four years more. 
" Napoleon " and " colossus " were the compliments he earned in that 
brief period, chiefly it would seem because he made Drury Lane pay. 
But there was something else, taken for granted now but shining new 
then. His was the spirit of what became known as " big business ". 
Instead of interesting himself in the theatre either for its own sake or as 
a means of self-aggrandizement, he eyed it like a gamester ; his zest 
came from faces startled by Ins wild extravagance, his reward the 
punter's joy in having backed his fancy. At the start it was his father's 
death which kept him from shouldering his way into high finance. 
Then he consented, for the sake of ready money, to play Shakespeare's 
Malcolm at Manchester in 1 873 . After three years of acting he showed 
such a flair for " front of the house " that he suddenly became the 
manager of an opera company, and then just as suddenly took over sole 
responsibility for staging the Crystal Palace Christmas pantomime of 
Sinbad the Sailor, a tale whose very nature is " panoramic or ultra- 
sensational ". 

But Meritt was before him. He had taken the cue from Formosa ; 



Youth (Drury Lane, 1881) 

or, The Railroad To Ruin. Though this had a prosperous run at Drury 
Lane in 1869, it was not until ten years later that its style became the 
model for spectacular melodrama, naval, military, sporting or just cata- 
strophic. Meritt adopted it at the Duke's in 1879 as the design o£New 
Babylon, described by D. L. Murray as the perfect melodrama, " It has 
every character, every situation, every sensation ". Its pictures of real 


life showed a Collision on the Atlantic, TattersalTs with its Sale of 
Horses, Cremorne with its Dancing Platform and 10,000 Lights, Good- 
wood on the Grand Race-Day, the Thames Embankment with its 
Electric Witness, and Seven Dials by Night. These were still drawing 
crowds to Holborn when Harris had to prescribe a cure for the listless 
tendencies of Drury Lane. There in 1880 Pettitt, Meritt and he to- 
gether created The World out of a notion taken from the Grecian's 
Rescue On The Raft a dozen years earlier. They " treated melodrama 
very much like a pantomime ". A ship was blown up, there was a 
mutiny on board, a raft disturbed the peace of mid-ocean with dead 
and dying, a man was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum on a false certifi- 
cate, a villain who desired to compromise a woman's honour met a just 
fate in tumbling headlong down a hotel lift-shaft, and Harris as the 
player of this part bore hissing with " delightful indifference ". 
Clement Scott praised the authors for discovering the golden rule that 
had guided the pens of Charles Reade, Dion Boucicault, Wilkie Collins 
and all the most popular writers of drama or fiction. " Believe me," 
he solemnly averred, " it is not cant, or humbug, or claptrap, to deal in 
generous sentiment ; it is human, it is nature. The mask of affectation 
and the veneer of cheap satire are rudely torn off when a popular play 
is represented. People don't want to be told when their hearts and 
better natures are touched ; they feel it." 

So they were again made to feel it in Youth, the Drury Lane drama 
of 1 88 1, by Paul Meritt and Augustus Harris, with the latter as hero. 
The Rev. Joseph Darlington once sinned with Mrs. Walsingham. Now 
he casts her off and she revenges herself upon his son, who is arrested 
at her soiree and sent to prison. There he is saved from death by an 
" illiterate fellow " who in a manly maimer declares that no brazen 
bully shall kill his pal. The " Departure of the Troopship " leads to 
" The Defence of Hawk's Point " (Rorke's Drift) and " The Son's 
Return ", where Clement Scott found " more nature " in all the manly 
and generous actions between man and man. To another critic 
Pluck ; A Story Of £$0,000, by Pettitt and Harris in 1882, was " one 
of the worst plays of its kind winch has ever been placed on the stage of 
a West-End London theatre ". The heroine who claims the -£50,000 
is to travel by the 9.15, which the villain decides to wreck. Harris has 
him arrested for fraud and forgery, so that he comes to the station 
handcuffed. Railway lines curve across the stage with a practicable 
wooden bridge, signal-posts and other accessories (which is precisely 
how the scene had been set for the body-on-the-line episode in Land 
Rats And Water Rats at the Surrey). The approaching engine is heard 



to the breathless excitement of the audience — " excitement dispelled 
when presently a property train, resembling nothing more impressive 
than a child's toy on a large scale, puffs in at a rate of four miles an hour, 
stops, goes on again, prances, and falls into two palpably pre-arranged 
segments amongst much explosion of squibs, yelling of supers, and 
manipulation of all the noise-creating instruments under the command 
of the prompter." Harris rescues the heroine just before a train from 

For Ever (Surrey Theatre, 1882) 

the opposite direction falls to pieces with business as before. Later a 
mob wrecks a bank, windows of real glass are really broken, and in the 
" memorable snow-storm of 188 1 " somebody finds his child dying in 
the snow. In 1882 the Surrey eclipsed this with For Ever, by George 
Conquest and Paul Meritt, which made the most of its reputation for 
creating strange monsters (and old playgoers in years to come would 
recall this with laughter when bed-ridden and in pain). It was Beauty 
and the Beast over again, but more intense. Zacky Pastrana, the 
monkey-man, would stop at nothing to sacrifice himself for the damsel 
in distress. " But what ", she asked, " what can I do for you? " and 
a voice from the gallery advised, " Lady, chuck him some nuts ". 
Even that did not lessen the pathos when he uttered the simple words, 
apropos of nothing, just before the curtain fell, " For ever ". Finality- 
mongering was very active at a time when everybody was singing 
Tosti's " Goodbye " and " Nevermore ", and this play came at exactly 
the right moment for everybody except another of those poor long- 
suffering critics. This one saw " suggestiveness " in the " unwhole- 
some " love of a demi-savage for a young and pretty girl, since, " The 


better such a part as the erratic man-monkey is acted the more offensive 
it becomes ". There were seven acts with a unique climax to their 
synopsis of scenery. A grand panoramic effect of moving streets and 
houses ended in Eternity prolonged by " ! ! ! " 

Revolting realism was tried in 1883 at Drury Lane when preparations 
for hanging Harris were made in A Sailor And His Lass, in which Robert 
Buchanan had a hand. " This last Drury Lane monstrosity is really 
too much for us ", complained another of those debilitated critics, 
although he had seen the country with a real cow, the docks with real 
rain, and a real horse. The sailor was Harris and the lass a farmer's 
daughter with the real cow. Her ruined sister and baby are being taken 
by Harris to start life afresh in a new world. But a gang of dynamiters, 
having persuaded the farmer to blow up a London street in one sensa- 
tion scene, now disguise themselves as sailors in order to scuttle the ship 
in another. Harris floats to safety on a few spars only to be sentenced 
to death at the Central Criminal Court for a murder actually com- 
mitted by the farmer. In the scene of the condemned cell Harris hears 
that his last moments have come. There are shrieks and sobs, he is 
pinioned, there is a procession to the scaffold, and the black flag is 
hoisted. The trap-minder is asked, " Are you ready? " The order, 
"Pull ", is given and then retracted — the farmer has confessed. The 
public were not amused. 

Because he liked " monosyllabic titles " Harris wanted to call his 
next effort Humanity. But as the Standard had staged three years 
earlier a drama called Humanity ; or, A Passage In The Life Of Grace 
Darling, he chose the title of a piece by his father instead. Accordingly 
the autumn drama for 1885 at Drury Lane, written by Petti tt and him- 
self, was Human Nature. Captain Temple, the hero, comes home from 
service abroad to find that Cora, once his mistress, is now his wife's 
paid companion and turns her out of the house indignantly, whereupon 
she makes him believe that his wife is Paul de Vigne's mistress. Cap- 
tain Temple, fighting in Egypt, leaves the zareba at night to bring in a 
fugitive. It is Paul de Vigne and he confesses conspiracy with his last 
breath. As Cora is murdered by her angry husband, everything ends 
happily for the parts played by Henry Neville and Isabel Bateman. 
The next year, in A Run Of Luck, Harris and Pettitt caused their heroine 
to be decoyed to a house of ill-repute, and the filly, named after her, 
to be seized as security for debts. Both are freed so that they may win 
in a canter. 

Meritt, odd man out, sent Harris reproaches that filled several pages, 
until he found cause for satisfaction. To Sims he said, " I read my last 


letter to Harris to you, didn't I? Well, that's a fortnight ago, and he 
hasn't replied. My boy, I've knocked him speechless ! " Opposite 
" sole lessees " on Surrey programmes the name of Meritt (business 
manager) was coupled for a spell with Conquest (stage manager). 
Meritt was appreciated there. 

14 William Terriss 

and the Adelphi 

The Bells Of Haslemere 

FASHIONABLE theatres like the Hay market could have their 
drawing-rooms, and family theatres like Drury Lane their Turf, but 
the Adelphi wanted nothing better than fore-ordained triumphs for 
virtue. Falsely-accused innocence was fresh enough for every new 
plot. It was the staple of the Adelphi drama even before that theatre 
engaged the perfect hero for such plays, perfect because he made it seem 
a matter of such urgency for us to have faith in him. That hero was 
William Terriss. Like the stuff he acted, he was middle-aged with the 
looks and the spirit of youth. He was born in 1847. His father, 
George Lewin, was a barrister, and his mother was the niece of Grote, 
then a famous historian. Several schools, hundreds of miles apart, are 
supposed to have had a share in William Lewin's education, though at 
fourteen years of age, when his father died, he became a midshipman. 

At seventeen he came in for a little money and retired from the 
Service to spend it. He went in for tea-planting at Chittagong but it 
was too monotonous. He suffered shipwreck with ten days of terrible 
exposure on the inhospitable shore of Holy Gunga before being taken 
off by a ship bound for England. He refused the chance to go on the 
stage; that was unthinkable. Instead, he tried the wine trade but as 
that was too monotonous he apprenticed himself to an engineer's shop 
at Greenwich, and found that too monotonous too. Next he took a 
berth on his uncle's yacht for a Mediterranean cruise, and on the way 
was cheered by a crowd who mistook him for a prince of the royal 
blood. In the autumn of 1 867 he at last consented to act. As Chouser 
in The Flying Scud at the Prince of Wales's, Birmingham, he had a 
speech but forgot it. When asked for the words he said, " It's all 
gone ", and was afterwards known to the rest of the company as " All 
gone ". 

He left for London, where his tale is continued by Squire Bancroft. 
" I had been constantly told by a maid-servant that a ' very young 



gentleman had called ', and that he seemed very persistent about seeing 
me. One day the girl informed me that the ' young gentleman ' had 
in a most determined way pushed past her, bounded up the steps, and 
walked into our little drawing-room, where he then was." Bancroft 
was disarmed by the frank manner of a handsome young fellow who 
had resolved " not to leave the house until I had given him an engage- 
ment ". After two seasons he married and went to seek his fortune in 
the Falkland Islands. Monte Video was in a state of siege. The emi- 
grants, unable to land, transferred to a coasting schooner for the 
thousand miles to Stanley. Through foul weather the voyage lasted 
twenty-four days instead of ten, and rations were reduced to two bis- 
cuits and half a pint of water a day. 

After six months of sheep-farming Lewin took passage for himself, 
his wife and their baby, Ellaline, in a Swedish whaler which had put in 
for repairs. Off Gibraltar their ship was lost in a fearful gale. Pas- 
sengers and crew drifted in open boats in the Bay of Biscay for two 
days and nights until picked up by a ship bound for Falmouth. Now 
the traveller was at last reconciled to " raddle his face and go for hire 
upon the stage ". He played Robin Hood in Halliday's Rebecca (" Ivan- 
hoe ") at Drury Lane. Yet he had not had his fill of wandering. 
With an introduction to Mr. Tattersall, nephew of Mr. Tattersall of 
Tattersalls, he went to Lexington, Kentucky, to try his hand at horse- 
breeding. It was too monotonous. He went to New York, lost all 
his belongings, and came home steerage. At Drury Lane he was given 
parts in Halliday's The Lady Of The Lake and Richard Coeur-de-Lion. 

When The Belle's Stratagem was revived at the Strand in 1873, he 
played Doricourt, and a record run for this old comedy was the result. 
After that he was Romeo at Drury Lane. With neither training nor 
inclination, with nothing in his upbringing or family tree to account for 
such natural aptitude, the hero of real life became the hero of the stage 
as a matter of course. That he should have done well as Robin Hood 
may not be so very remarkable. But mannered comedy and tragic 
poetry are distinct techniques which Terriss never had mastered. Even 
if others had taken audiences by assault, though less astonishingly, in 
other generations, comparisons show that those who won fame in a 
night when Kean and Wallack laboured step by step, were invariably 
beautiful young women : handsome men could not do likewise until 
the rowdy, masculine and chivalrous pit was pushed into the back- 
ground by the upholstered half-a-guinea, feminine stalls. 

With his start in life as a midshipmite, his shipwreck and his terrible 
exposure, Terriss is the Jack Tar up to date. But he has altered. He 
is not jolly. He suffers a lot more, which is a sign that the century has 


grown sadder and wiser. There is no ignoring the nostalgia which 
was part of the maudlin fog now enfolding English life. A French- 
man described the most popular of juvenile entertainments — Nigger 
Minstrels — as a company of undertakers rattling cross-bones while 
singing songs about the dead, which was true. Similarly melodrama's 
heroes, like the glum villains of the drawing-room drama, suffered 
heavily, particularly when the Adelphi's limelight became sacred to 
William Terriss and Jessie Mill ward. For the Christmastide of 1885 
they appeared in The Harbour Lights by Sims and Pettitt. Lieutenant 
Kingsley, of H.M.S. " Britannic ", and Dora Vane have nothing to 
disturb their happiness apart from the fate of her life-long companion, 
Lina — victim of a gay young squire who is murdered in circumstances 
that cause all three to be suspected in turn. Through this turmoil Lina 
falls from a cliff down which Kingsley climbs to the rescue : a " clever 
mechanical change " showed the whole descent and the arrival of the 
lifeboat with the perilous tide. Although a run of over 500 perform- 
ances established this as a landmark among melodramas, it seemed to 
take less hold over old playgoers' memories than The Bells Of Hasle- 
mere, by Pettitt and Sydney Grundy, which opened at the Adelphi in 
July 1887. It was designed to exploit homesickness. William Terriss, 
hoodwinked, goes on business to America with forged greenbacks that 
he utters, and he is consequently wanted by the police. While hunted 
through the brakes and swamps of the Mississippi by bloodhounds, he 
comes across a very sick crook who recovers his health in order to turn 
Queen's evidence — but not before the villain has tried to drown his 
own wife in a mill-race from which Terriss rescues her. 

Several naive tales left their mark on playgoer's memories because 
Terriss enacted them. Another was The Fatal Card, by Haddon 
Chambers and B. C. Stephenson, at the Adelphi in 1894, which begins 
in Colorado with an attempt to lynch a scoundrel who is rescued by 
the hero ; this links itself with the murder of a miserly banker in 
circumstances that seem to fasten the guilt on his son ; and all ends well 
when a villain is destroyed by an infernal machine which brings the 
walls of his laboratory tumbling about his ears. One Of The Best, by 
Seymour Hicks and George Edwardes, the Adelphi drama at the end 
of 1895, made Terriss undergo the military ceremony of degradation 
recently suffered by the innocent Captain Dreyfus as the climax of the 
greatest military scandal ever known until then. More interest was 
taken by the Press in the moral turpitude of the young-woman-in-love 
who was the real culprit when her political treachery, theft, burglary 
and perjury caused the hero to be publicly degraded. Early in 1897, 
at the height of his popularity, Terriss played Douglas Jerrold's Jack 



The Bells of Haslemere (Adelphi, 1887) 

Tar in a revival of Black-Eyed Susan (Surrey, 1829). The Kendals 
employed W. G. Wills to alter the salty old play into William And 
Susan at the St. James's in 1880; Sims and Pettitt stole the plot for 
their military drama of In The Ranks at the Adelphi in 1883 ; and Pettitt 
had used it again in A Sailor s Knot at Drury Lane in 1891. Terriss at 


the Adelphi in 1 897 had the novel idea of presenting it under its own 

The next author to be billed at the Adelphi was William Gillette, 
who began at Madison Square Theatre in 1886 as actor-author with 
Held By The Enemy, which was presented in London at the Princess's 
the next year. This was melodrama without a villain. A Confederate 
girl, after falling in love with a Federal soldier, tries to save her Con- 
federate fiance from being shot as a spy by declaring that he is being 
victimized by her new lover who is trying to rid himself of a rival. It 
is the prisoner himself who denies the story. He is supposedly shot but 
actually concealed. The Federal tries to smuggle him to safety in a 
coffin. At length the General orders it to be opened : there is a corpse 
inside, for the spy has died during the argument. Ten years later 
Gillette again chose espionage in the Civil War as his subject in Secret 
Service. This time a Federal spy learns a military secret from the 
Southern heroine, but keeps it to himself in the belief that all is not fair 
in love and war. In this the author made his first appearance on the 
English stage at the Adelphi in 1897 before handing over the play, in 
the summer, to Terriss and Jessie Millward. They regarded it, at first, 
as a stop-gap and it was withdrawn. 

This was to make room for In The Days Of The Duke, by Haddon 
Chambers and Comyns Carr, which had a prologue, dated 1800, to 
show Terriss as the victim of a most thorough villain 1 who first 
seduces his wife, then causes him to be branded as a traitor, and finally 
murders him. In a scene of 18 15 Terriss is the son who kills the vil- 
lain's accomplice in a duel. Jessie Millward, the heroine, receives a 
written confession, but since it tells the truth about both the parents of 
her betrothed, she keeps it secret. The ball at Brussels on the eve of 
battle was " brilliant beyond all description ", and on the field of 
Waterloo the villain, dying from his wounds, clears the father's good 

Towards the end of November, Secret Service was revived. Three 
weeks later, while it still filled the bill, the grotesque figure of a mad- 
man, an actor named Prince who had been a member of the Adelphi 
company, haunted the alley by the side of the theatre between the 
Strand and Maiden Lane. While rehearsing in the provinces he forgot 
his lines, wildly commanded the theatre to be closed and stalked out 
when not obeyed. In his black hat and Inverness cape he arrived at 
the stage-door of the Adelphi. He came night after night; on 16 

1 The villain's misrepresentation of fact became too much for one young 
playgoer. " I leapt up in my Eton collar ", D. L. Murray recalls, " and shouted 
' LIAR ' at the top of my voice ". 


•if |^ - " 

::'^ V: ::.^aiIPl 

XLII and XLIII William Terriss as Sir Kenneth in Richard Coeur de Lion (Drury Lane, 1874) and as 
Dudley Keppel in One of the Best (Adelphi, 1895) 


XLIV and XLV William Terriss and Jessie Millward in The Harbour Lights (Adelphi, 1885) and The Fatal 

Card (Adelphi, 1894) 

XLVI Secret Service (Adclphi, 1897) : William Gillette as Lewis Dumont. " Arrest that man ! 


XLVII In The Ranks (Adclphi. 1883) : Realism applied to military life 


December he had some mysterious " hand property " under his arm 
and the stage-hands chaffed him, as they had done before. That even- 
ing (according to the book J. B. Booth wrote for her) Jessie Millward 
drove up in a hansom to the pass-door in Maiden Lane, where she 
noticed Prince. There was, she said, " something in the man's face 
that frightened me, and instead of waiting to open the pass-door I 
rushed to the stage-door ". While dressing she heard Terriss put his 
key in the pass-door, and then there was silence. " Something has 
happened ", she cried and rushed down the stairs ; Terriss was leaning 
against the wall, near the door. " I had just reached him when he 
swayed. Sis ', he said faintly, ' Sis, I am stabbed \ I put my arms 
around him to support him, when we both fell to the ground on the 
bare boards at the foot of the staircase leading to our dressing-rooms. 
... He opened his eyes, and faintly squeezed my hand. ' Sis ! Sis ! ' 
he whispered. And that was all." 

With other leading players Secret Service resumed its run at the Adel- 
phi for the Christmas holidays. Gillette continued his London season 
in 1898. On returning to New York he impersonated Sherlock 
Holmes so successfully that throughout the rest of his career he felt there 
was no pleasing the publics of two countries unless he constantly 
reappeared in the part. As he grew old he went to live on a farm. 
Some old friends came with the purpose of leading him back to the 
stage. He was still refusing when he bade them good-bye at the gate. 
As he shook his head a goat looked at them and made the noise that 
goats make at all times and in all places. " You see," said Gillette with 
a break in his voice, " here even the animals love me." * 

1 In fairness to Gillette the author of this book wishes to add that he once took 
comfort, when hopelessly lost in a blinding, deafening hill-fog, from blundering 
into an old goat. 

15 Wilson Barrett 

and the Princess's 

The Silver King 

" STOP ! You that have wives or mothers or daughters, remember 
there is a lady on the stage." This appeal quelled a riot at the Prin- 
cess's in 1875. The audience which had come to see Heartsease, by- 
James Mortimer, strongly objected to the nature of the story. It had 
been taken from La Dame Aux Camillas and the heroine was unchaste. 
Now this outburst was strange because never in all theatrical history 
has there been such a time for fallen heroines as the boom they enjoyed 
in the 1870s. While Mortimer took henceforth to farce and comedy 
as though wishing to turn over a new page, a whole rabble of play- 
wrights exploited Magdalens so thoroughly that they might have been 
accused of living on immoral earnings. 

One of them was W. G. Wills, king of Bohemia. Some called him 
picturesque, some slovenly ; smudges of paint on his face and rolls of 
MSS. in his pockets advertised his callings. " A poor painter who 
writes plays for pence ", was the label he gave himself, but as a specialist 
in children's portraits he received a command from the Queen for the 
likenesses of little princes and princesses which should have sent his fees 
on commission soaring. Even Paris in the 1840s never boasted a more 
ardent romantic. He used to tell how he was so overwhelmed, on 
first sailing up the Thames from Dublin, by the sight of the Tower of 
London that he burst into tears. What he felt then was what he could 
always feel about any sentimentally hallowed scene of history, and by 
writing costume dramas he gave this emotion full vent. His success, 
for an author with little stage experience, was astonishing. He sold 
Buckingham to Neville, and Mary Queen Of Scots to Mrs. Rousby. But 
the subject which lay nearest his heart was Jane Shore, particularly as 
she appeared in the old play by Nicholas Rowe which affected him 
deeply, so deeply, in fact, that he sought to turn his grief to good advan- 
tage by transforming the work into a play of his own. His biographer, 



Freeman Wills (author of The Only Way), says that Rowe's play 
11 possessed little (if any) literary merit, and my brother made no use 
whatever of it ". Nevertheless Rowe was named as part author of the 
new play, which certainly took its outline from his : King Edward has 
just died, the Princes are in the Tower, Hastings wishes to protect them 
and also to inherit Jane Shore's favours, Gloucester has resolved on 
killing the Princes and Jane Shore on protecting them — the difference is 
that whereas Queen Anne's playwright saw her as a poor, weak woman, 
Queen Victoria's makes you feel that but for the obstinacy of history 
on this point it might be Gloucester who would need our pity. Still 
the lack of novelty in so old and familiar a heroine told against her. 
Although Wills became more and more in demand, his MS. ofjane 
Shore aroused no interest, and no offers, until the studio of the poor 
painter who wrote plays for pence was visited by a young actor, 
Wilson Barrett, whose good looks were eminently those then fashion- 
able — a somewhat classical, very muscular archangel, which was 
partly to be explained by his early training as a blacksmith's apprentice. 

With his brother, George, he had made his first appearance before 
the public in comic duets at the Grecian, but when his magnificent 
presence won the admiration of Caroline Heath he acted with her, 
learnt all about acting from her, and married her. He was playing 
Archibald to her Lady Isabel in East Lynne at the Surrey when he went 
to see Wills in the Fulham Road ; the young husband of Miss Heath, 
zealous for her interests, had decided that the time had come to find her 
a new play ; and after witnessing her tear-compelling powers as Lady 
Isabel he knew what kind of a play that play should be. On turning 
the pages Wills could not sell, Barrett realized that nothing was there 
for himself but the little-more-than-a-walking-on-part of Master 
Shore, but he knew that Mistress Shore would prove for his wife a 
grief-stricken goldmine. The author had prepared an alternative 
happy ending. This was swept aside. 

Directly Miss Heath showed herself in the character, Barrett's choice 
was justified. At Leeds, early in 1875, the new Jane Shore was received 
with rapture, and at the Princess's a year later that audience of fervently 
righteous but utterly inconsistent souls launched the production on a 
morbidly triumphant career to outlast the actress's lifetime. With 
resources which included a real penny loaf, the famous penance became 
no mere matter of words but " Old Cheapside (Winter) by Night " 
all in white and snow falling on Miss Heath's low-cut evening dress 
that trailed a long silk train of black. Already " hath a woman lost her 
life " for offering aid, but John Grist swears not by his halidom but by 
his " halliday " (out of compliment to Andrew Halliday's historical 


dramas) that he will He there in his own blood an' he not give her food. 
" Exit Grist into his house, hastily returns with loaf. She flies to him, 
ravenously snatches it, and, dropping at his feet, tears it to pieces. 
Ruffians interfere, Crowd cry out, ' Strike him down ! ' — Grist is 
thrown down, and one of the Ruffians drives Jane back ; she falls on 
the snow — Enter Shore, armed — he strikes dead the Ruffian who had 
thrown back Jane, and rescues Jane, supporting her on his arm." 

Dropping at a wronged husband's feet, as Augustus Egg indicated in 
his painting of" The Suffering Husband " at the Royal Academy (now 
at the Tate), was the correct procedure for erring wives. What 
galloping in imitation of a horse was to comedy, crawling on the stage 
was to tragedy. This had recently been added to the lore of etiquette 
by " Idylls of the King " when Arthur comes to confront Guinevere: 

. . . prone from off her seat she fell, 
And grovelled with her face upon the floor, 
There, with her milk-white arms and shadowy hair, 
She made her face a darkness from the King. 

It may seem more like Warner's big scene in Drink than romance, but 
as four or five actresses sent audiences into ecstasies by such means, there 
can be no denying it was currently correct. Caroline Heath was not 
the first to try it, but when she seized the penny loaf and bit it, she added 
a paroxysm to the effect. Henceforward she was identified with the 
character and it took years from her life. In London her husband 
handed over the part of Shore to Charles Warner and contented him- 
self with management. At the Princess's in 1876 it had one long run 
and in 1 877 another. In the provinces it stayed in constant demand and 
Caroline Heath went on continually from tour to tour as Jane. After 
ten years of it, increasing fits of mental depression hastened her death. 

Meanwhile Wilson Barrett had won praise as a Shakespearean actor 
with Madame Modjeska. She also appeared with him, and under his 
management, in Juana, by Wills, at the Court in 1881 ; while she played 
the wife driven insane by jealousy to do murder, Wilson Barrett was 
the priest who, for love of her, confesses to the crime and is about to be 
bricked up in " a living tomb " when she recovers her wits and speaks 
the truth. But this was not his type of play. His mission in life was 
melodrama, to the greater glory of which he transformed the old 
Amphitheatre at Leeds into the aptly-named Grand, where the founda- 
tions of his fame as the champion of virtue were profitably laid. Here 
he received the oft-rejected MS. of The Lights O' London which has had 
to be described in an earlier chapter because the works of its author, 
George R. Sims, belong to the study of" Brutal Realism ". It ran for 
over 200 performances at the Princess's when Barrett played it there in 



Jane Shore (Princess's, 1876) : Caroline Heath as the penitent 

1881-82, and was succeeded by The Romany Rye, also by Sims, in the 
folio wing June, when Barrett did almost as well. 

That style of" diluting Zola at Aldgate pump " aroused the emula- 
tive instincts of Barrett's business manager, Henry Herman, an 
Alsacian with a glass eye in place of one lost in the American Civil War. 
" Daddy " was Herman's nickname because he seemed to be past the 
age for enjoyment, but that was not how he saw himself. Into the 
whirlpool of winning and spending that then made London life, he 
threw himself with wholehearted zest, one day entertaining all-comers 
and the next reduced to bilking a cabbie whose whip, he swore, had cut 
out his eye — here, in his hand, for witness. Very frequently the more 
grotesque a man's shape the more he hankers after the gorgeous. This 
was the state of Herman's soul, and the theatre of the 1880s, which 
wanted imagination in bulk, had a use for him. Cataclysmic and 
supernatural devastation was always present to his overwrought 
vision; the only difficulty was that he could not put pen to paper 
except when making up accounts, and so preferred that in authorship 
someone else should undergo the hard labour of putting it to paper. 
He found the very partner he needed in an industrious young man 
named Jones. 


So many stage careers had been the result of chance, or inexplicable 
natural aptitude or environment, that some reward for perseverance 
instead was overdue. Henry Arthur Jones was a farmer's son. At the 
age of ten he went to school in the summer between six and seven 
o'clock before breakfast, sold milk until it was time for more lessons 
between nine and four, and sold milk again until he went to evening 
classes. At the age of twelve he was packed off to an uncle, deacon of a 
Baptist chapel, who kept a shop at Ramsgate, where Henry Arthur 
worked fourteen hours a day. The next year he became a commercial 
traveller. At sixteen he wrote a drama. At eighteen he entered a 
theatre for the first time ; it was the Haymarket, where five hours of 
entertainment sandwiched Kate Bateman's agonies between two farces. 
Every evening he went to the play. He would see a successful drama 
six times, " till I could take its mechanism to pieces ". He fell in love 
with Adelaide Neilson as " a glorious Rosalind ", and when he had done 
clapping and shouting for her at the fall of the curtain, hurried to the 
stage-door and patiently waited to see her into her four-wheeler. By 
treating her cabman to a pint of beer, he learned where she lived in 
order to stand for an hour or two outside her window. He gained a 
foothold on the stage with a one-act play at Exeter, where Mrs. 
Rousby's husband " was willing to play the leading part if I would take 
half the dress-circle ". He quickly advanced to other " subsidized 
productions". At last he received payment of -£50. This was for A 
Clerical Error, acted at the Court in 1879 with Wilson Barrett as a vicar. 
Jones next dramatized a novel, about an attempt to repudiate a Scotch 
marriage, which had for hero a clergyman whose attitude to the heroine 
recalled The New Magdalen. At this critical moment the young play- 
wright was invited to collaborate with Herman. 

The century was closing in conscience-stricken grief— a sense of 
guilt everywhere. It inspired the poem of qualified fidelity to Cynara 
as well as manifestoes of vegetarianism, and convicted of sin every soul 
from Swinburne's " luxurious Dolores " to addicts of tobacco, not to 
mention anybody so unnaturally inclined as to wear clothes while 
posing before the camera. Such widespread shame could not be kept 
secret. Wilson Barrett sensed it. He wanted a play about it. Falsely- 
accused innocence was not enough. He was tired of holding his head 
erect to look the whole world in the face ; he wanted to raise his eyes to 
heaven and cry, " Repentance ! Pardon ! Peace ! " In other words, 
he coveted the torments of the damned which had made Mrs. Wilson 
Barrett the idol of galleries awash, so to speak, with tears. Accordingly 
he approached Herman and Jones with the words (according to the 
report of that genial critic, Chance Newton), " Look here, boys, the 


sort of play I want is East Lynne turned round. That is, with a man in 
the position of Isabel Carlyle ; lost to the world for a while — reported 
to be killed, like her, in a railway accident, if you like — and returning 
secretly in disguise, well-off though totally unable for a time to see or 
succour his suffering wife and children." The idea of self-accusation 
was to be exploited as never before. 

Together they supplied him with The Silver King, winch opened at 
the Princess's on 16 November, 1882. Wilfrid Denver faces ruin in a 
skittle alley. Ware, his wife's former suitor, taunts him and he swears 
revenge. There is a swell mobsman, the Spider, with such a respect 
for his calling that when preparing to crack a crib he dresses as though 
for the opera. His gang are already at work when Denver arrives full 
of alcohol and threats, only to be chloroformed. On recovering his 
senses he finds his revolver at hand; a shot from it has killed Ware. 
Believing himself to be a murderer, Denver tries to cover up his tracks 
by taking a train and jumping from it. Part of that train is destroyed 
by fire after a collision and Denver (who has prayed, " Oh God, put 
back Thy Universe and give me yesterday ") reads the newspaper 
reports and realizes that he has the chance to start life afresh in a new 
land. Three years and six months pass. Nellie Denver is hard pressed 
by her landlord, the Spider. Her child comes home with a purse, the 
gift of a stranger whose hair turned silver while he mined silver in 
Nevada. In the disguise of an aged half-wit the stranger wanders into 
the riverside warehouses where the gang is quarrelling and there he 
learns the truth about the murder. When the Spider is brought to 
account, the exile is at last free to declare himself to his wife and children 
and there was no doubt from the start of a run of nearly 300 perform- 
ances that a masterpiece had arrived among melodramas. It gave the 
public all the sin-laden misery that it hankered after in outbursts of a 
soul's distress that have been cited regularly ever since. 

Since The Silver King is as guilty as Sims of expounding the gospel of 
rags, Barrett was ready for a change of repertoire. So far, despite the 
variety of his costumes, he had not seen how classically his features 
would suit a backcloth of pagan temples. The time was still to come 
when an old cleaner, arrested by his portrait in decollete armour, would 
shriek, " 'Er? I knoo 'er when she were Connie Gilchrist ". But 
once a toga had been draped upon the blacksmith's manly and generous 
form his destiny was fixed. Herman decided this. He had been play- 
ing with scissors and paste, which always fascinated him, and had made 
a scene-model of Rome ; a simple mechanism made all its columns 
topple in bits as though snapped by an earthquake. Long before The 
Silver King went into rehearsal, Herman was showing his new toy to 


Barrett and receiving orders for a play to suit that earthquake. This 
time Herman's Cyclopian gaze fell upon Wills, who had been working 
with Barrett upon a great tragedy (about Boadicea's daughter) for a 
great actress who retired from the stage rather than act in it. The 
unemployed poet was swept off to Margate, where he was thrown 
scraps of plot every morning in bed with his breakfast. Since Herman 
carried out his share of the bargain by constructing a plot which con- 
sisted of " The Last Days of Pompeii " added to " The Wandering 
Jew ", the play was finished in six weeks. Claudian opened at the 
Princess's in the December of 1883. For killing a priest Claudian is 
doomed to perpetual youth while tribulation afflicts everyone else. 
When he takes to his heart Almida, after her lover has been flung into 
a torrent, Herman's earthquake turns the whole city into ruins by 
moonlight. Claudian invokes the spirit of the murdered priest, who 
lets him choose between life and death; because the lovers have sur- 
vived, the sinner decides to die. Here was another study of " Re- 
pentance, Pardon, Peace ", and it had nearly as long a run as the other. 

Now Wilson Barrett decided upon authorship himself, and adopted 
the simple method of using a plot whose effects had already been 
demonstrated. He took his idea this time from Frank Harvey, author- 
actor-manager, who had brought his touring company to the Olympic 
in 1 88 1 with The Workman; or, The Shadow On The Hearth, in which 
Bessie, the heroine, bears the reproach of the wrong done by her sister, 
and her husband is driven frantic before he discovers that her infamy is 
self-sacrifice. Once some obvious objections had been removed this 
made an excellent story for Barrett's use — with no acknowledgments. 
In Hoodman Blind, which he wrote in collaboration with Jones 1 for the 
Princess's in 1885, the wife is not to blame for her husband's jealousy. 
There is a cold, calculating villain who steals her hooded cloak. Her 
double, a gypsy, is bribed to wear it while being embraced by her lover 
for the husband to see. 

With her wide staring eyes and small taut mouth, Mary Eastlake 
gave such an impression of emotional intensity, first as one woman and 
then as the other, that Hoodman Blind was her triumph. In both 
parts she made sure of the audience's sympathy for which Barrett 
laboured in vain as the too credulous husband. In his next play — Clito, 
at the Princess's in 1886 — her part could win no sympathy. She was a 
hardened sinner of the classic age as imagined by Barrett in league with 
another young playwright, Sydney Grundy. Athens at the height of 

1 In The Lie, acted by Sybil Thorndike and Mary Merrall at the New Theatre 
in 1923, Henry Arthur Jones made still better use of this idea of a woman blamed 
for her sister's sin. 


its luxurious decline was their subject. As a critic said, " Woman's 
infamy and man's guilty weakness are shown to us in all their naked- 
ness ". Clito, the sculptor, goes to Helle's house to upbraid her. She 
falls at his feet and promises to be his wife. Meanwhile she has lured 
her innocent little foster-sister into the power of a voluptuary who kills 
the poor child when she cries for help. Clito revenges her. Helle 
again falls at his feet, begging him to save her from the mob. Both 
died, Barrett more especially, for though Miss Eastlake grovelled on the 
ground, beating the floor in the agony of her terror, she " touched the 
utmost limits of realistic acting ", and realism was still considered 
too . 

1 6 Parsons in Love 

The New Magdalen 

ONE more reference has to be made to La Dame Aux Camillas . That 
Marguerite Gautier was reviled unfairly has already been suggested. 
The outcry against her reveals more bias when she is compared with 
the heroine of Wilkie Collins' The New Magdalen at the Olympic in 
1873 . Here the penitent, trying to expiate her sins by serving as a nurse 
in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, steals the papers of a woman 
thought to have been killed and personates her. The idea seems to be 
that if she sincerely regret her sexual delinquencies, any offences against 
the criminal code are too trivial to be worth mentioning. According 
to the current view of woman's duty tins was but fair. Men need not 
be chaste but they must be honest : women, since they must be chaste, 
need not be honest. Though never officially sanctioned, this nice 
balance expressed itself every now and then. In Not Registered 
(Royalty, 1882) a post-mistress stole money from a letter and relied on 
the audience's sympathy. In The Power of Love (Prince of Wales's, 
1888) the appeal was for a very nice young lady who merely tried to 
poison her father. In One Of The Best (Adelphi, 1895) the pardonable 
offences of a virgin included robbery, treason, espionage and readiness 
to let the innocent suffer for these crimes. " Foolish little creature " 
was the right attitude towards dishonest but prepossessing females. 

But The New Magdalen has other importance. When the heroine's 
plans are upset by the return to life of the woman whose place she has 
taken, she finds a champion. He is a clergyman.. To label him " in- 
fatuated " would be to meddle because that is not the story as it was 
written or as it was received. The clergyman understands her, because 
of that he loves her, and because of his love he is ready to sacrifice him- 
self for her. The hero who had the right to preach as well as the right 
to fall in love was a new inspiration to the drama. To be photo- 
graphed in a " dog-collar " was every actor's ambition at this sudden 
blossoming of Episcopalian romance — Belasco was rarely photographed 
out of it. W. S. Gilbert's " pale young curate ", whom maidens of the 
noblest station, forsaking even military men, would gaze upon while 



rapt in admiration, was no figment of idle thought but a shrewd cari- 
cature of the times (and the parson in Shaw's Candida needs this as 

While The New Magdalen was the most popular of plays it happened 
that " The Church and Stage Guild " was formed in 1879. According 
to The Theatre magazine, damsels more or less known to histrionic 
fame made speeches before canons and curates on racy subjects and 
originated savoury discussions. An important member of the Gaiety 
company, who had hitherto generally succeeded in keeping her name 
out of the programme, was put up to discuss the conduct of " noble- 
men, men of high position and soldiers, who stand at the stage-doors to 
tempt girls who are perfectly innocent ". She suggested that a fire- 
hose should be directed at the heads of these aristocratic Lotharios. 
" Fled gilded duke and belted earl before me", the fair young curate 

Here the Vicar of Wakefield comes into the story. When W. G. 
Wills wrote Olivia for the Court in 1878, older versions of this part of 
Goldsmith's novel were revived and new versions dramatized, besides 
which a very similar father-and-child episode appeared — this time 
wearing modern dress — in Henry Arthur Jones's Saints And Sinners at 
the Vaudeville in 1884. A minister's daughter, loved by an honest 
farmer, elopes with a heartless military man. She returns and is for- 
given, but a vindictive deacon swears to reveal her shame unless he is 
assisted in fraud. The minister tells his congregation the secret and 
goes away with his daughter to starve until the farmer makes an honest 
woman of her, upon which the father returns to his chapel, having by 
the same ceremony been made an honest preacher of. 

There was still novelty enough in religious romance for a critic to 
talk of the " rather daring experiment of choosing a clergyman for the 
hero ", when Wilson Barrett wrote The Golden Ladder in collaboration 
with Sims for the Globe in 1887. The Rev. Frank Thornhill, to save 
his future father-in-law from disgrace, hands over his fortune and goes 
to Madagascar as a missionary with his bride. There some unusually 
resourceful villains poison the wine he is sending to the sick, and he is 
likely to be shot but for the defiance of French authority by the English 
skipper who takes him aboard. Back in England, a false message from 
a dying woman lures him by night to Hampstead Heath, where he is 
saved from death by his wife, who shoots one of the villains and is 
sentenced for attempted murder until pardoned. The prison was 
" fearfully harrowing " and " too " painful to some, but Barrett found 
a champion when the author of" Alice in Wonderland " wrote " The 
Stage and the Spirit of Reverence " for The Theatre in 1888. Villainy 


had been hissed in The Silver King to show that, " Those who thus hiss 
— evil as their own lives may be in some cases — yet have their better 
moments, when the veil is lifted, when they see Sin in all its native 
hideousness, and shudder at the sight ! " On the other hand, there was 
an example of the sympathy shown by playgoers for what was pure and 
good in The Golden Ladder when the greengrocer said he had called his 
child Victoria Alexandra, " because they're the best two names as is ! " 
The applause in Lewis Carroll's ears seemed to say, " Yes, the very- 
sound of those names — names which recall a Queen whose spotless life 
has been for many long years a blessing to her people, and a Princess 
who will worthily follow in her steps — is sweet music to English ears ! " 
The hero of All Is Not Gold That Glitters brought down the house by 
declaring, as factory-owner, that he could not sleep in peace if he 
thought any man, woman or child among his hands went to bed cold 
and hungry. What, asked Lewis Carroll, did it matter that the 
" hands ", so tenderly cared for, were creatures of a dream? '' We 
were not ' reverencing ' the actor only, but every man, in every age, 
that has ever taken loving thought for those around him, that ever 
hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a 
garment." Preachers of this manly type were thoroughly typical of 
the state of the world after many years of inspissated melodrama. 
" Right-thinking " was all. 

Another stage pastor makes full confession to his flock in Judah, the 
Jones drama at the Shaftesbury in 1890. Vashti, a faith-healing, fasting 
girl, is brought to cure an earl's daughter. Judah Llewellyn, a Welsh 
minister, discovers she is a fraud. In order to save her he perjures him- 
self and for ever after his soul is in torment with the reproach from his 
conscience of, " Liar ". When his congregation presents him with a 
testimonial and the deeds of a new church, Judah and Vashti tell their 
story and offer to leave, but are persuaded to stay. In The Dancing 
Girl, the Jones drama which Tree put on at the Hay market in 1891, 
Drusilla, who cannot be called the heroine since she lacks the moral 
fibre for it, comes home to the Quaker colony on the island of St. 
Endellian, Cornwall. In London she is the shameless dancing girl of 
the Duke of Guisebury, whom she despises ; she will not even become 
his duchess when he has no money for more debaucheries. With his 
last remnants of credit he gives a party in trappings of magnificence 
which he purposes to use as his funeral pyre. Drusilla is about to dance 
before his guests when her father comes to fetch her. She dies, the 
Duke marries a good woman, and melodramatic instincts have over- 
whelmed an author when trying to achieve something better. 

So far Jones had favoured the view that the modern mind, as one 

/Ill and XLIX The Silver King (Princess's, 1882) : Wilson Barrett as Wilfred Denver and Mary Eastlake as 

his wife 



' , 

L Wilson Barrett as Wilfred Denver 

LI Wilson Barrett as Claudian (Princess's, 1890) 




LII Olivia (Court, 1878) : Ellen Terry and Hermann Vezin (centre) as the Vicar of Wakefield and hi 
daughter. The children are Edith and Gordon Craig 


LIII The Golden Ladder (Globe, 1887) : Wilson 
Barrett as the Rev. Frank Thornhill 

LIV Judah (Shaftesbury, 1890) : E. S. Willard as 

the Minister Judah Llewellyn, and Olga Brandon 

as Vashti Dcthic 


critic put it, revolted from " special maleficence " no less than from 
" special providence ". But when the spirit of Shakespeare descended 
upon him he broke into blank verse and forgot the modern mind. The 
Tempter should have been his greatest religious drama. Unfortunately 
it became memorable instead for his greatest display of bad temper. 
Tree, who staged it on the grand scale at the Haymarket in 1893, was 
blamed for turning poetry into pageantry. William Archer, who 
(among many others) found fault with it, was answered in one of the 
finest examples of invective in the language, inspired by that righteous 
indignation which was now the white man's burden everywhere. 

The greatest of all Jones's unacknowledged masterpieces was yet one 
more with a clergyman as hero. For the third time he made a plot 
turn on repentance in the pulpit, and each marks a stage in the develop- 
ment of the relations between salvation and sex. The vicar of 1 8 84 has 
to make public his daughter's shame : the minister of 1893 has nothing 
worse on his conscience than a he told under the influence of love : the 
parson of 1 896, hero of Michael And His Lost Angel at the Lyceum with 
Forbes-Robertson in the part, is honestly guilty. The married woman 
who mocks Michael's faith, rouses him. To escape her he goes to his 
hermitage on an island and sends away the only boat. She arrives and 
cannot leave. In a church scene, staged like a pageant, he publicly 
brands himself as a sinner and exiles himself. But he feels no regret, 
and when his lost angel dies, he cries out that he is ready to suffer all 
things " only persuade me I shall meet her again ". Michael And His 
Lost Angel was bound to fail. Women in bulk would not stand for a 
hero who has to be seduced ; that was a sop to male vanity. They were 
drawn to the opposite type with an increasing frankness which caused 
the term " seducer " to change to " hunter by a slow and gradual 
process barely perceptible at the time. To find pleasure in tales of 
sexual doggedness was not a new vogue. That it had always been so 
throughout the age of virtue triumphant was not to be overlooked, for 
" Clarissa Harlowe ", Richardson's novel of 1748 about chastity lost 
through foul drugs and violence, was twice dramatized in 1890 — by 
Wills for Miss Bateman on tour, and by Buchanan at the Vaudeville. 
Although melodrama had caused impassioned villains to demand 
marriage (even when heroines were not heiresses) there was usually 
some insistence that their attitude towards women was an implacable 
desire for possession in some shape or form. Such villainy looked more 
and more commendable once the heresy spread that woman was the 

There must be an epilogue to this chapter. Twenty years later a 
playwright in Boston became bedridden. His solace was an ardent 


friendship with Doris Keane. Both had had a little success on the stage 
and many disappointments. Together they planned Romance to pre- 
sent her as a prima donna of the 1860s, mistress of a wealthy banker who 
is leader of fashion in New York. At his house she meets the young 
rector of St. Giles's ; they wish to marry until she blurts out the truth 
about herself and rushes away. He comes to struggle with her for her 
soul, loses his head and struggles for her body until she begs, " Please 
let me be good " (which became one of London's catch-phrases). The 
play opened at Maxine Elliot's Theatre, New York, in 191 3. In the 
autumn of 19 15 Doris Keane brought it to London. Zeppelin raids 
began soon after, and it might have been withdrawn but was transferred 
instead to the Lyric in Shaftesbury Avenue. There it broke all London 
records for melodrama and for all plays other than farces up to that 
date, with a run of over 1,000 performances. " Cabotinage ", said a 
critic who had seen all stage clergymen. Tawdry that belated speci- 
men of sex-and-salvation undoubtedly was. But no one who saw it 
in the London of doused lighting is ever likely to forget it. Scene by 
scene it stays bright in memories which have lost sight of some hundreds 
of other plays. 

17 Sex and Salvation 

The Sign Of The Cross 

WITH the stage clergyman came the Biblical title, another whim 
revealing the general hankering after a show of religion. While a few 
people, like Bradlaugh, who was called The Atheist, as though unique, 
were supposed to be disturbing religious rest, very many more were 
determined on a period of religious zest. There was a great to-do 
about making this part of everyday life. Preachers wanted to be 
men of the world, and men of the world, from the Prime Minister to 
dramatic critics, wanted to be preachers. There was nothing singular 
in Wilson Barrett's love of sermons as moral limelight, though in this 
he surpassed all other actors. Playwrights, long accustomed to adorn- 
ing their dialogue with sentiments, now praised virtue at still greater 
length. But any nearer approach to sacred things was dangerous. 
Something remained of the spirit which caused the outcry over Holman 
Hunt's sacred pictures simply because he represented the form of Christ. 

The new craze is cynically explained in Filon's " Modern French 
Drama ". After Louis Napoleon's fall in 1870, the Pope had directed 
the priesthood to act as mediator between the old aristocracy and the 
new ruling classes so that the daughter of M. le Ministre sits at a charity 
meeting side by side with a La Tremouille, and his son has his coat cut 
after the fashion prescribed by the Prince de Sagan. This was called 
" the new spirit ", or better still " the return to religion ". Mysteries 
after the manner of Oberammergau were acted in booths at the fairs. 
While a " strait waistcoat " was demanded for Tolstoy when he 
frightened society with his Christian ideal in its pristine severity, 
religious emotion was enjoyed as an artistic sensation like any other. 
Their Christianity was a Christianity a la Baudelaire, lulled by bells and 
soothed by incense, seeing in the Magdalen only another " dame aux 
camelias ", whose golden hair, borrowed from Flemish art, awakened 
beautiful dreams. To be in the fashion Sardou wrote Gismonda for 
Bernhardt. She first killed a man with an axe and then, as a saint, 
headed a religious procession. 

London playgoers were nervous at first. There was some reluctance 

1 115 


to quote Holy Writ despite the successes won by The New Magdalen 
and The New Babylon. For strict Sabbatarians even Saints And Sinners 
had been too previous. They hooted the first of its 182 performances, 
said Jones, " on the count that it dealt with religious matters, and that I 
had made its personages quote Scripture on a Sunday morning " ; to 
offset this he published unsolicited testimonials from the clergy in his 

Books had an advantage over plays in being privately consumed. 
Consequently the printed page revealed tendencies before they could 
be expressed publicly. There was always a time-lag for the theatre, 
and where religious matters were concerned it was unduly long. 
Novelists who wished to assist the world's salvation had their task made 
easy for them by the affinity between sacred and classical subjects. 
Lytton's " The Last Days of Pompeii " had founded a whole school of 
fiction. Whyte-Melville, retired captain, Coldstream Guards, who 
served with the Turkish army in the Crimea, wrote " The Gladiators " 
in 1863. Lew Wallace, a major-general in the American Civil War 
and then Governor of New Mexico, wrote " Ben Hur " in 1880. If 
power could be measured in fiction as it is in electricity, Lew Wallace 
would be called a generating-station. On the other hand, a rival claim 
could be made out for Robert Buchanan, with whom originated the 
" powerful " novel of modern life. In literary history he has a 
peculiar place as the author of an essay, " The Fleshly School of 
Poetry ", which attacked Rossetti and Swinburne, drew answers from 
both, and eventually prompted a fit of penitence peculiar in the annals 
of criticism. That such an ineradicable fuss should have been made 
over it hints at the spirit of a young ladies' seminary in literary England. 

Buchanan was granted a Crown pension at the age of thirty and 
while thus subsidized set a new standard for popular fiction in 188 1 with 
the religious solemnity of his, " God and the Man " — the story of 
two farmers' sons of the Fens, enemies since their youth when one 
seduces the other's sister, then rivals in love and in the end allies against 
privation in the Arctic, where the seducer is buried by the man he 
wronged. When dramatized for the Adelphi in 1883 the story lost its 
devout and irrelevant title and was called Storm-Beaten (taken from 
another novel Buchanan had written twenty years earlier) ; his power- 
ful novel did not make a powerful play because his stage dialogue missed 
the hypnotizing effect of his ponderous prose. 

As novels "Ben Hur " and " God and the Man " were beginning to 
exert an enormous influence upon the imagination of the masses. 
Each inspired imitators who successfully created awe in the unfledged 
mind. The powerful novels of the 1 8 80s and 1 890s, were not cold print 


when opened by the trembling hands into which they were intended to 
fall. Buchanan's emotional violence overwhelmed the young genera- 
tion that was being brought up in an atmosphere conducive to religious 
mania. The breaking down of the old taboos against the display of 
sacred forms in profane places meant that the promise of heaven and 
the threat of hell dogged the footsteps of the young from dawn to dusk. 
At the same time the more freedom the stage had to represent the good- 
woman-who-had-sinned, the more fear and hatred there was of sex. 
Music-hall singers who extolled animal enjoyments were called dis- 

Morality had come to mean nothing but sex, and the control of 
adultery was to be regarded as the be-all and end-all of religion. If 
stage heroes were presented as being in Holy Orders their illicit amours 
would, not illogically, wreck whole lives, but stress on the importance 
of the Seventh Commandment did not end there. As the nineteenth 
century was ending, authors who understood their public insisted on 
the close relation between sex and salvation or sex and damnation while 
avoiding the old term " sin " in favour of the new term " love ". 
Novelists of the kind called powerful made much of this. Their 
peculiarity lay in hints that they had been appointed to expound 
heaven's warnings against all the sinful lusts of the flesh — hearts included. 
Their books with Biblical titles refrained from humour, upheld the 
moral laws, indulged in portents, and maintained a gravity of language 
as though signifying the birth of a new, vaster and more fearsome 
Apocalypse, with themselves as sidesmen. 

This was not to be Buchanan's mission in life. Having lost his 
money in the theatre he looked to the theatre to reimburse him. 
While he was vainly trying to do so, as author in whole or part of 
thirty or forty melodramas, he let the mitre of religious romance pass 
to another earnest provincial of his own frame of mind only more so. 
Thomas Henry Hall Caine was born in 1853 at Runcorn, Cheshire, and 
went to school in the Isle of Man, which to his prospecting eye revealed 
its rich lode of romantic ore. Though meant to be an architect, he was 
destined to champion what he called " The Little Manx Nation ". 
For a time he wrote for the Builder and the Building News before he 
came to London at the age of eighteen and turned novelist with " The 
Shadow of a Crime " and " A Son of Hagar ". In his beard and cloak 
and flowing locks, he seemed to be dreaming of fame, though all the 
while he kept an eye, a wild blue eye in fine frenzy rolling, on big 

Belles lettres were his first concern, for he had known Dante Gabriel 
Rossetti. Next, to quote what happened to some of his characters, 


nature whispered in his ear the secret of sex. It came to him with all 
the force of revelation. When it inspired his story, " The Deemster ", 
London's limelight fell upon the somehow strangely familiar domed 
forehead and pointed beard. It was another Shakespeare — the Manx 
Shakespeare. Wilson Barrett was impressed. Together they turned 
the novel into Ben-My-Chree for the Princess's in 1888. Dan, the 
bishop's son, is hated by his uncle, the Deemster, whose daughter, 
Mona, is the only one who loves the outcast. Her brother, witnessing 
Dan's escape from her window, insists on a duel with knives and is 
killed. Dan is found guilty, but in the Isle of Man the Church has the 
last word and the bishop saves his son by passing on him the sentence of 
being cast off from the people — no one must speak to him and he must 
speak to no one on pain of death. The Governor, unable to make 
Mona his wife, accuses her of being Dan's mistress. She comes to 
church to swear her innocence but her testimony alone is not enough. 
Dan takes oath before the altar, thus dooming himself to death, and 
Mona falls dead in his arms. 

Belief in the sacred duties of the stage wavered at the Princess's in 
1 889. Wilson Barrett had possessed himself of a panorama of riverside 
scenery in Tasmania. Forgetful of his allegiance to virtue, he persuaded 
Hall Caine to write with him a drama of escaped convicts to be pursued 
by the hero in a boat while the landscape unrolled its beauty spots. In 
order to get the characters transported there a husband has had to accuse 
himself of attempted murder ; actually the shot has been fired by his 
wife to escape the consequences of a past so lurid as to make a hollow 
mockery of the authors' choice of title — Good Old Times. When the 
public proved indifferent to the panorama Barrett did not jump to the 
obvious conclusion that piety paid. He gave a trial matinee of Nowa- 
days, a tale of the Turf by himself with a villain so determined that 
Thunderbolt shall not win the Derby that he elopes with it to London ; 
it is brought back to Epsom and does win. Sport failed as the thriller 
had done. Manx virtue had to be tried again. 

To be a Shakespeare without being a poet makes the theatre of 
particular importance. Hall Caine clung to it with a pertinacity that is 
altogether admirable in a land which has an almost heraldic veneration 
for the bulldog. No other novels have been dramatized and re- 
dramatized so often as Ins. His The Bondman (as distinct from Mas- 
singer's, Betterton's, Cumberland's and Bunn's) was staged at Bolton in 
1892, and then took a rest in readiness for the next century. His The 
Manxman, story of a Manx girl who cannot make up her mind whether 
to live with her husband or the father of her child, was dramatized by 
Wilson Barrett, with music by the composer of The Geisha, at the 



Nowadays (Princess's, i88y) 

Grand, Leeds, in the summer of 1894. For the moment Hall Caine 
must be set aside, for Barrett, while acting The Manxman on tour, 
planned a yet greater drama, a " deep study of a social problem " with 
a secret no one could guess to the end. Though this particular play 
seemed to vanish into thin air, Barrett's ideas indicate the spirit of the 
times. He had a great moral urge to teach " those who are growing 
up, not merely the broad lines of right and wrong, of honesty and dis- 
honesty, but something more ". He had, unlike earlier generations of 
melodramatists, " no faith in the innocence that arises from ignorance ", 
and could not blame a girl for falling into a trap " into which her own 
inclination or feeling may have drawn her, when the knowledge of the 
existence of such traps has been kept carefully from her ". When 
warned that this was delicate ground he answered, " If we are wrong, 
then it will be necessary to amend the texts and the Commandments 
over the altars, and to alter words used by every Church in Christen- 
dom ". But the epoch-making point was never raised. Barrett, 
harassed by a huge burden of debts, forgot his unborn masterpiece and 
went to America, first handing over The Manxman to the villain of his 


company, Lewis Waller, after re-dramatizing it so that the baby's 
father should become better fitted for the centre of the stage than the 
baby's mother's husband. Thus re-moralized the story was acted in 
1895 at the Shaftesbury, where it caused Bernard Shaw to ask " Who 
is Hall Caine? " 

Since the celebrated novelist was amassing one of the largest fortunes 
ever made from authorship and was to see his prosperity acknowledged 
with a knighthood, whatever his private feelings suffered from this 
question could go into the advertising account. What concerned him 
more was the ever-increasing rivalry which might have reduced his 
royalties had the public not been omnivorous. Sex-and-salvation 
fiction, down to pornographic love stories with prefaces by broad- 
minded bishops, could not cope with the demand. Shameless people 
might read such novels as Grant Allen's courageous " The Woman 
Who Did ", which was well boosted by public protests, but the masses 
stayed respectable and read Hall Caine. 

Public taste had progressed, as though the nineteenth century were a 
girl at school, from highwaymen to gypsies, then to bigamists, then to 
convicts, and now to erring clerics. Fin de siecle was the glamorous 
label for the mentality of the sixth form, free to read about nocturnal 
encounters between man and woman out of wedlock and regard this as 
being grown-up. The new phase is marked in the output of Ouida, 
otherwise Louise de la Ramee. She was born at Bury St. Edmunds 
in 1839, and published a novel a year from the age of twenty-three for 
half-a-century. Among such early efforts as " A Dog of Flanders " 
and " Two Little Wooden Shoes " is a novel of the Foreign Legion — 
" Under Two Flags ", which she wrote in 1867. Though it became 
one of the best among romantic melodramas, its stage history is 
staggered : one version was acted at Norwich in 1870, another at 
Dundee in 1882, another at Cork in 1902, another at Stratford in 1909, 
and another at the Lyceum in 19 12. 

Under the title of Firefly it was staged as an equestrian drama at the 
Surrey in 1869 — merely an echo of performances in Boston the year 
before when the heroine had been played by Charlotte Crabtree, who 
under the name of Lotta had won fame in the roaring camps whose 
miners expressed their worship not in bouquets of roses but in bags of 
gold-dust, so that at her death in 1924 she left an estate of five million 
dollars. At the California Theatre in San Francisco, Ouida's story was 
lavishly mounted with the Foreign Legion on the march and under fire, 
before Lotta mounted a real horse in front of a panorama to show the 
desert ride. Cigarette, the vivandiere who obtains a reprieve for the 
legionary she loves and arrives just in time to fling herself between him 


and the firing party so that she is killed by the bullets meant for him, is 
the female equivalent of Sydney Carton and no drama of the Legion 
has yet equalled hers. With sex, which merely whispered to Hall 
Caine, Ouida was on familiar terms. Her novels " adopted an un- 
healthy tone " and became almost infamous for amorous Guardsmen. 
Then religious titles dominated her library list from " Santa Barbara " 
and " The New Priesthood " to " The Silver Christ ". Another was 
added in 1880 when her novel " Held in Bondage " was turned by 
James Willing, at the Olympic, into Delilah ; or, Married For Hate. 

With " The Soul of Lilith " in 1892, " Barabbas " in 1893 and " The 
Sorrows of Satan " in 1895, Marie Corelli scrowged through the sancti- 
monious scrum. Her elbows expressed the lively and endearing spirit 
of a little street-arab ; and though her contemporaries may not have 
regarded her so affectionately they are not to blame. If she were 
criticised by far too high a standard, it was because of her power of 
stamping upon an impressionable public mind the seal of herself as a 
grande dame. That is an understatement. In showmanship she had 
no equal. Hall Caine could present himself as Shakespeare's double, 
but Marie Corelli could do better — she was Shakespeare's guardian 
and by the way she dressed hinted at the addition of the word " angel ". 
She sent to Venice for a gondola and gondolier so that Stratford saw 
her afloat like a better and brighter Swan of Avon. Where Shakespeare 
had his Birth-place she would have her Death-place. Her Will 
ordered that Mason Croft should be maintained out of profits from her 
two dozen novels in perpetuity. In time there were no profits. In 
1943 newspapers set apart columns, ill-spared from war news, to 
describe how her home was being sold by auction. She bequeathed 
to the nation (and the nation declined) this monument to the self- 
appointed spinster pontiff who declared Barabbas to have been loyal 
and Satan saintlike. When Lewis Waller appeared in The Sorrows Of 
Satan at the Shaftesbury in 1897, Shaw himself expounded her gospel of 
" Electric Christianity " which bestowed the power of making trips 
round the solar system, living for ever, playing pianos at the dictation 
of angels, and knocking people down by means of electric shocks 
without apparatus. 

It should have been plain that Wilson Barrett, too good a man of 
business to let others reap where he had sown, was not going to stay 
out of all this. What handicapped him in the early 1890s was lack of 
funds. All the profits of his seven fat years at the Princess's had been 
lost by a well-meaning friend when demonstrating how money should 
be invested in something sounder and safer than theatrical enterprise. 
Barrett parted from Mary Eastlake, whose " inability to keep the tears 


back from her eyes " had meant as much as his manliness to the Prin- 
cess's. But he filled her place. While in New York he saw Maud 
Jeffries in Daly's company and engaged her as his leading lady. In 
" Master and Men ", one of his many volumes of lively reminiscences, 
J. B. Booth describes how on his American tour of 1895 Barrett travel- 
led by train through wild districts where a mark was blazed here and 
there on prominent rocks. He was told by the negro attendant, 
11 When de assay er find a likely spot for minerals he make de mark on 
de rock — de sign ob de cross ". 

Within a very short time The Sign Of The Cross opened at St. Louis 
and had no success. Barrett re-wrote and wrote again, trying his play 
in every town, until he came back to England and tried his luck at 
Leeds. Sex-and-salvation had reached its zenith, for the quality of 
" power " had been transferred from the page to the stage now that 
religion had been dramatized as an aphrodisiac. Passion is innocently 
excited by his heroine, the Christian maid, Mercia, in the pagan breast 
of Marcus Superbus, one of Nero's prefects. She is brought to an 
orgy at his house where the guests deride her. Chivalrously com- 
manding " Hence, all of you ", he attempts rape, but is confounded in 
Ins wickedness when she confronts him, a halo of light round her hair, 
with a cross. In the dens beneath the Colosseum she awaits death in 
the arena. If she will forswear her faith, Superbus will save her by 
making her his wife. With the shriek of a mangled Christian boy 
ringing in her ears, she refuses. Superbus decides to die with her, 
philosophizing, " If that thy faith be true, what is this world — a little 
tarrying place — a tiny bridge between two vast eternities : that we have 
travelled from, and that towards which we go ". Hand in hand they 
walk to their " bridal ". 

Rumours of the impending masterpiece came first from America 
and then from Yorkshire as Marcus Superbus advanced on London for 
its opening at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, 4 January, 1 896. " Innu- 
merable clergymen, a famous Dean and at least one Bishop " hymned 
Ins praises to the skies. They led the public to the footlights, for no 
critics could growl louder than his lions. Archer likened the simple- 
minded padres to children at their first pantomime, but considering 
how " power " had evaporated from the imaginings of Caine and 
Corelli when transferred to the stage, Barrett's achievement is worth 
examining. How was it such old materials could be regarded as new? 
Critics played their part, for Archer uttered a cri du cceur in protest 
against its sanctimonious bloodthirstiness. 

Bestiality, sexuality and Christianity are not in The Sign Of The 
Cross. Yet the compound of all these three was what its audiences saw. 

LV and LVI The Dancing Girl (Hay market, 1891) : Beerbohm Tree as the Duke of Guisebury and Julia 

Neilson as Drusilla Ives 

.VII The Dancing Girl : Fred Terry as John 

LVIII The New Magdalen (Olympic, 1873) : Ada 
Cavendish as Mercy Merrick 

LIX The Sign of the Cross (Lyric, Jan. 1896) : Franklin LX The Christian King (Adelphi, 1902) 

McLcay as Nero cursing the Christians Wilson Barrett as King Alfred 


LXI The Manxman (Lyric, N< 
Wilson Barrett as Fete 


LXII The Daughters of Babylon (Lyric, 1897) : Wilson 
Barrett as Lemuel and Maud Jeffries as Elna 

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LXV and LXVI Dan I Druce, Blacksmith (Haymarket, 1876) : Marion Terry as Dorothy. Forbes 

Robertson as Geoffrey Wynyard 


LXVII The Squire (St. James's, 1881) : Mr. and LXVIII Little Lord Fauntleroy (Prince of Wales'^ 

Mrs. Kendal as Lieut. Thorndyke and Kate Verity 1888) : Annie Hughes as Cedric Errol 


There can be no denying that something was there which is no longer 
there. What its performances did to the public in 1896 can be likened 
to chemical action. The shriek of Haidee Wright when eaten alive as 
the mangled Christian boy, the spiritual agony of Maud Jeffries when 
running the risk of rape, the nobility of Barrett when preferring 
lions and love to lust and luxury, had meaning. They registered on 
the critic who raged, as powerfully as on the gallery boys and girls who 
now by their firesides recall how that excitement burnt them up. 

Excitement was what each playgoer found in the play. Yet it was 
never mentioned in unsolicited testimonials. Writers of these spoke 
as though they had mistaken the Lyric for something between cathedral 
crypt and lecture hall. The Rev. Canon Thompson of Cardiff called 
Mr. Barrett " a thoughtful, refined, and scholarly man ". Gladstone 
saw the show at Chester. " A great service to the best and holiest of 
all causes — the cause of Faith ' , was the residue when his feelings sub- 
sided. " And I rejoice to hear ", ran his letter of thanks for free tickets, 
" of the wide and warm approval which the piece has received, most of 
all because its popularity betokens sound leanings and beliefs in the 
mass of the people." Making full allowances for differences of opinion 
between generations, particularly propinquitous generations, that is still 

Actors who continually play one part for a year or more tend to 
confuse its identity with their own. Barrett, after some hundreds of 
performances of The Sign Of The Cross, saw himself as Superbus. 
Formerly he had haunted Rotten Row in a velvet coat, a slouch hat and 
a Quartier Latin tie after the manner of The Silver King. Now he 
attended Church Parade dressed with simple dignity in top hat, frock 
coat, flannel shirt open at his Roman neck, and hair, grey at the roots, 
antiquely flaxen, while in deportment he was as much Superbus as on 
the stage. " When I was brought to the presence ", said W. E. 
Holloway — an actor of the richest experience — " I felt almost impelled 
to drop on one knee, the way I was ushered into his dressing-room and 
the way he sat on a dais and extended his hand were so rarified. When 
he knew of actors who went hungry he would make an appointment 
at his house, then excuse himself on account of pressure of business and 
ask them to pass the time breakfasting at his table, where they could 
eat heartily unobserved/' 

There was no need to find a successor to The Sign Of The Cross — 
no need for Barrett to act again. But the spirit of Shakespeare was as 
rampant within him as it was in Caine and Corelli, and he wrote several 
more dramas, though none of them excited public interest. At the 
Lyric in 1897 he wafted the plot of The Octoroon to Ancient Assyria, 


where it became a new play, The Daughters Of Babylon, with a heroine 
held up to auction and freed by a sentimental courtesan who denounced 
the villain while Barrett carried a lamb to show a Christian spirit even 
in a century B.C. Man And His Makers, by Wilson Barrett and Louis 
Napoleon Parker, staged at the Lyceum in 1899, scoffed at science. 
A Q.C. loves and is loved, but the girl's father, who believes in heredity, 
knows that the Q.C.'s father was a drunkard, and the match is for- 
bidden. The Q.C. takes to drugs and is ruined. He sleeps on a bench 
in the Mall, where the heroine, descending from a ball at the Duchess's 
in Carlton House Terrace, lays her cooling hand on his temple and in 
ten years he is a judge and the father of a happy family. 

One criticism rankled. Barrett was distressed by the charge that 
The Sign Of The Cross had plagiarized " Quo Vadis? " Witnesses for 
the defence included an old stock actor, George Graham, who saw a 
still greater similarity to "Pomponia; or, The Gospel in Caesar's 
Household ", which he remembered as a serial in the Sunday at Home. 
But Barrett had a better way of confounding his critics. He went 
abroad to see Sienkiewicz and obtained his permission to dramatize 
" Quo Vadis ? " Unfortunately a version by Stanislaus Strange opened 
first at McVicker's Theatre, Chicago, and was brought to the Adelphi 
in the May of 1900. Barrett, a month later, mounted his play at 
Kennington. " It was ", wrote George Graham, " a riot of solid 
masterpieces, such a profusion of different sized rostrums as I had 
never seen before." Both productions were soon forgotten while 
Marcus Superbus still held the stage. 

" Counsel in overflowing measure ", on many subjects from virtue 
to sea-power, marked The Christian King, Barrett's celebration of 
King Alfred's millenary, at the Adelphi in 1902. His last play, Lucky 
Durham, was about a love-child who comes back a millionaire. When 
it was being tried out at Liverpool in 1904, Barrett had to undergo an 
internal operation which lasted for four hours. He died, pleading, 
" Hold me up, hold me up, I'm going." 

1 8 Melodrama Mocked 

Gilbert and Sullivan 

PROVIDENCE was undone. From the moment Wilson Barrett 
spoke of the risks run by innocence cracks appeared. According to 
the robust faith of his fathers nothing urged Providence to greater 
efforts than the defence of innocence, which therefore ran no risks. 
Trivial though this may seem it indicates how the entire pageant of 
virtue triumphant, universally vast no matter how insubstantial, was 
fading. If the change be dismissed as one affecting mere entertain- 
ments the answer is that the drama of democracy had not until now been 
mere entertainment. It had, as a means of self-expression, kept hope 
alive for the masses throughout the sordid age of industrialism, even 
though it had proved itself to be an illusion which left some with the 
feeling of having been duped. 

There was no rude awakening. The first doubts came in gentle 
comic operas as romantic in manner as the fustian they ridiculed. 
Their author, William Schwenck Gilbert, was yet another barrister- 
omcial-journahst-versifier-play wright. For the Hay market in 1876 
he wrote Dan I Druce, Blacksmith, a melodrama on the subject of an old 
miser with an adopted daughter, for which he gave the credit to George 
Eliot's " Silas Marner ". Sir Jasper, fleeing with a babe in his arms 
from the Ironsides — after a battle in which the baby seems to have 
taken part — leaves it in a miser's cottage and escapes with the miser's 
hoard, after scribbling, " Grieve not for thy gold — it hath taken this 
form ". The miser exclaims, " Heaven has worked a miracle to save 
me ". Two years later, in H.M.S. Pinafore ; or, The Lass That Loved 
A Sailor at the Opera Comique, Gilbert looked down from philosophic 
heights upon melodrama, turning to laughter the tale of infants changed 
in their cradles. In The Pirates Of Penzance ; or, The Slave Of Duty, at 
the Opera Comique in 1880, his jest was a hero as much in honour 
bound to a pirate king as the hero of Fenimore Cooper's " The Red 
Rover " — long popular as a play as well as a novel. The author's 
ability to mock the tricks of his trade was not so remarkable as his 
audience's avidity to smile with him at one end of the town and weep 
with Sims at the other. 



From its very beginnings melodrama had been accompanied by so- 
called " burlesques " which de-emotionalized all its plots without as 
much as pin-pricking them. What was serious on one stage became 
fun on another, not by the exercise of a critical or disillusioning wit, but 
by substituting song, dance, puns and horseplay for emotion. Such 
entertainments of comic relief, badly needed by a public which became 
easily overwrought, never justified their label. There was no genuine 
burlesque until Gilbert's comic operas exposed the absurdity of melo- 
drama both in the theatre and in real life. 

Other signs that the polite world might be, very slowly, coming to 
its senses had been appearing for some time past in the kind of fiction 
it read. Unmelodramatic novels had proved popular ever since 
Darwin's influence had been felt, but to find distinct traces on the stage 
might be difficult apart from the unscrupulous character in Alphonse 
Daudet's play, La Lutte Pour La Vie, who justifies his misdeeds by 
calling himself a " strugforlifeur ". That came many years later. 
Passions that raged in 1859 demanded silence, and it was then that 
George Eliot expressed the scientific view of life in fiction. As 
assistant-editor of the Westminster Review, Mary Ann Evans, from 
Nuneaton, met George Henry Lewes and " entered into an irregular 
connection with him " according to the phraseology of their bashful 
generation — in other words they lived together. In the novels she 
wrote under the name of George Eliot, the hard-headed reasoning of 
the Midlander applied biology to story-telling. Instead of proffering 
heroes or heroines to be praised or villains and vampires to be con- 
demned — the view that Dickens was still upholding magnificently — 
she expounded a new idea of sin : wickedness was damned, not be- 
cause of the eagerness of Providence to punish the evil-doer, but because 
the consequences of evil-doing were unavoidable. That this was a 
distinction with a vital difference the whole trend of fiction would 
show. Providence could no longer be relied upon to save an erring 
wife or any others who liked to sin and repent. 

Why not ascribe melodrama's decline to a cause within itself — that 
craze for realism which must surely bring it into withering contact 
with reality? But melodrama's unreality thrived on realism. The 
greater the outward show of actuality the more thorough the deception. 
Providence was never so impressive to the gullible as when thwarting 
the express at that sixty miles an hour winch on the stage was agreeably 
represented by half-a-dozen jerks. There were, of course, several 
other kinds of realism. But neither Dumas ^1/5 nor Zola could dispel 
faith in a Providence who waited behind the scenes to punish or reward 
in order of merit. That they belonged to the old order became 



Hermann Vezin as Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith : " Hands off! Touch not the Lord's Gift " 

evident as soon as Thomas Hardy's novels made his meaning clear. In 
the early 1870s he was writing one a year. What he signified can be 
understood when Wilkie Collins' " The New Magdalen ", normal 
evidence of public taste, is compared to Hardy's novel with a clergy- 
man in it — " Under the Greenwood Tree ". To see here the differ- 
ence between the new world and the old might be strained, but the two 
novelists undoubtedly faced in these opposite directions. Collins' love 
story followed the accredited and approved pattern of two souls 
destined for one another, and Hardy's simple country gossip plainly 


inferred that marriages, far from being made in heaven, might be 
decided by a silk umbrella. 

" Far from the Madding Crowd " pleased everybody. Six years 
after its publication in 1874 Hardy assisted Comyns Carr to make a play 
out of it. They were forestalled by an unacknowledged dramatization 
called The Squire which pretended to be an original play. Though 
literary piracy was frowned upon, playwrights still picked up novels as 
unconsidered trifles. Pinero, an actor-playwright, deciding to " waft 
the scent of hay over the footlights ", stole Hardy's zephyrs. Out of 
materials gathered in Wessex he wrote The Squire for the Kendals — 
inheritors of the Bancroft tradition because Madge Kendal was Tom 
Robertson's sister — at the St. James's towards the close of 188 1. The 
resemblance was so strong that it would be simpler to regard it as a 
free adaptation. The version by Hardy and Carr departed from the 
original further still. In their plot a gypsy vowed revenge (like the 
one in Maria Marten) because his sister had been seduced by Sergeant 
Troy. He cowered behind hedges and came in and out of doors or 
windows for three acts, bent on the murder which would bring the 
true lovers together again. 

Lest " Far from the Madding Crowd " should seem to set the stan- 
dard for novels in the 18 80s, another that was then avidly read deserves 
notice. Mrs. F. H. Burnett's " Little Lord Fauntleroy " was thought a 
beautiful work. It was dramatized by E. V. Seebohm in 1888 at the 
Prince of Wales's with Annie Hughes as the grandson from America — 
almost a legendary figure now in velvet suit, lace collar and long flaxen 
hair — whose winning ways soften the hard heart of the old Earl of 
Dorincourt until he forgives the boy's mother for marrying his son. 

19 Male Magdalens 

The Profligate 

MELODRAMA of a kind which made no pretence at being any- 
thing else but melodrama became despised. Both people of fashion 
and people of taste avoided it. They flocked to those comic operas at 
the Savoy which expressed exactly what they had begun to think of 
the old world and its ways, but they had also crowded to most of the 
many plays of H. J. Byron, 1 who saw life precisely as the Surrey side 
saw it although he cared less for sensations — that he could manage this 
style when he chose was proved by the floods in Guinea Gold ; or, 
Lights And Shadows Of London Life at the Princess's in 1877 — than for a 
lighter style where he could pun as much as he pleased. Such pieces 
were comedies because the plot was slight and the dialogue facetious, 
but to enjoy them the audience had to accept stereotyped artifices as 
natural. Partners For Life, staged at the Globe in 1 871, is typical of his 
long list ; husband and wife part because he is annoyed at finding that 
she is wealthy ; both pretend to be single and not to know one another ; 
they fall into each other's arms when they meet as fellow guests, and 
cause a scandal. This treatment was so well liked that H. J. Byron's 
Our Boys ran at the Vaudeville from the January of 1875 to the April of 
1879. A rich butterman's son and a baronet's son starve together in 
an attic rather than marry in accordance with their fathers' wishes; 
then there is trouble with the brides of their own choice because a 
bonnet, left in their attic by an aunt, provokes suspicion. A critic was 
pained. " This rather unpleasant imbroglio ", said Dutton Cook 
apropos the bonnet, and then again, " amusement is excited by inhar- 
monious and injudicious means ". 

Nothing pleased this supposedly sophisticated town better than 
melodrama which successfully pretended to be something else. 
Ohnet's Le Maitre Des Forges, at the Gymnase in 1883, was the type. 
As The Ironmaster, by Pinero, it was acted by the Kendals in 1884 at the 

1 He was Lord Byron's second cousin but probably inherited his literary 
talent from a great-grandfather who was a rascally quack with a gift for writing 



St. James's, already established as the theatre of Mayfair. This story 
of a woman of good family who weds the industrialist in a fit of pique 
and insists on a manage blanc, had the air of" social problem " about it. 
That meant diluted melodrama. The heroine, rushing between the 
pistols of her aristocratic old love and her commercial husband, re- 
ceives a slight wound ; it was gloomy and that made it fashionable, for 
the new intellectual drama which quidnuncs talked about would of 
course be gloomy — the drama of ideas from The Robbers to Leah always 
had been because it had always come from the other side of the Rhine 
where brains worked solemnly. The Franco-German frontier had 
been so great a wall against the free passage of thought that German 
plays came to London by way of New York. The barrier broke down 
when Harris presented at Drury Lane a German company, maintained 
by the Duke of Meiningen, which excelled in the handling of stage 
crowds. Thirty-odd years earlier there were riots when foreigners 
acted at Drury Lane. Now, however small the financial rewards, the 
talk of the town was flattering. " Managers ", said Harris, " flocked to 
Drury Lane along with the general public." They were willing to 
borrow from other Continental cities besides Paris. 

As a cosmopolitan Henry Herman was aware of what interested 
playgoers abroad. Fresh from the success of The Silver King he 
persuaded Jones to join him in tackling a similar subject (with the 
difference that it would now be a woman who innocently committed 
the crime) in a drama, by " the leading playwright of Norway ", called 
A Doll's House. It had caused a great stir in Germany even though the 
author, in Herman's eyes, seemed raw to the theatre, for he had strayed 
uncouthly from what Clement Scott had set down as the bounds of 
human nature. The partners soon put this right. While changing 
outlandish names into simple English ones, they corrected the " sym- 
pathy " so that the public would know whom to side with, and appealed 
to chivalry with their new title of Breaking A Butterfly. This redecor- 
ated masterpiece was billed at the new Prince's Theatre (later called the 
Prince of Wales's), mid-way between Leicester Square and Piccadilly 
Circus, in the spring of 1884. There was a brilliant cast with Kyrle 
Bellew, an exceptionally handsome actor from Australia, to play an 
elderly husband who confesses to the forgery committed by his thought- 
less little wife, and Beerbohm Tree to represent the jilted lover who 
hopes to get her into his clutches by holding the incriminating docu- 
ment over her defenceless head. When a kind-hearted friend of 
husband and wife turns burglar for their sake, all goes well. 

But all did not go well in the newspapers the next morning. Just as 
luck would have it this play, out of all the hundreds that had crossed 



Partners for Life (Globe, 1871) 

the Channel, was not to be freely adapted with impunity. That 
forthright Scot, William Archer, wrote as if the play were consider- 
ably more sacred than Shakespeare. Though the Bard's text could be 
altered at will, Ibsen's had to be respected. A DoWs House was not a 
title to be changed even though people might associate it with Christ- 
mas pantomimes; and the unthinkable ending, where the well- 
meaning wife walks out, deserting her children and slamming the door 
behind her, was not to be improved upon either. What was worse, 
the public, knowing little and caring less, stayed away and the play 
vanished within the month. 

It was irksome to note Archer's inconsistency. When criticizing 
The Squire, he had defended the mangling of Hardy's meaning on the 
grounds that " the resemblance of the play to the novel, or rather the 
importance of the resemblance, has been exaggerated ". As much 
might well have been said in defence of Breaking A Butterfly. Both 
adaptations changed new lamps into old, as the critic ought to have 
gathered from his own summing up, " Mr. Pinero might — by the 
grace of the Lord Chamberlain — have made his play moral ; he has only 
made it conventional ". As a puritan, Archer understood Ibsen's 
argument that those who practise virtue must be ready to perish for 
virtue; for the same reason he did not understand Hardy's cosmos 


where man-made institutions like virtue were dwarfed. New thinkers 
occupied very different territories. Archer was trying to find his way 
about Hardy's Wessex with a map of Norway. 

Enough was known of Ibsen's plays for Archer to declare that they 
could no more be introduced into the West End than the " marriage 
customs of the Zulus ". Yet they were praised with a reverence that 
any playwright might envy. Obviously the Norwegian drama could 
not be rendered acceptable by some ingenious compromise; on the 
other hand, there was nothing to prevent a London playwright from 
making the Norwegian manner his own. English plots, if shrouded 
in conscientious and unnatural gloom, had the chance to share in this 
intellectual awe. The foreign way was to raise problems outside the 
pale of polite society ; the English way was to bring them within the 
pale by showing how they affected people of some standing instead of 
humble provincials. 

How this would work out could be tested by adapting an argument 
now agitating authors and audiences abroad: whether pre-nuptial 
chastity was equally incumbent on both parties. The debate was 
highly significant of the moral questionings of the 1880s. It was pro- 
voked by A Gauntlet, written by Ibsen's closest rival, Bjornson, to pro- 
test, through his indignant heroine, against the time-honoured belief 
that a bridegroom was entitled to have had a past ; the play caused a stir 
at Hamburg in 1883, followed by a storm in Norway. In Denmark, 
Edward Brandes' A Visit showed how the husband of an unchaste bride 
decided that females were as much entitled to free pardons as males, and 
in Germany Sudermann's Honour examined the problem as seen 
through the eyes of a brother. In Russia Tolstoy's The Power Of Dark- 
ness presented profligacy on a monstrous scale ; the farmer who has the 
outlook of his bull or boar, ravages the countryside. 

Whatever their differences all these were at one in condemning the 
laxity of male morals, and the point of the attack becomes clear when 
the behaviour of bachelors in popular dramas is studied. In these, 
judging by the London stage, the blame for sexual indulgence was so 
very one-sided that the male felt in duty bound to revile his partner in 
adultery afterwards. The hero of Human Nature, the Drury Lane 
drama of 1885, brushed off his mistress like mud. Sister Mary, at the 
Comedy in 1886, went further — naturally, since it combined the 
imaginative powers of Wilson Barrett and Clement Scott. " Pretty " 
was a critic's adjective for its singular story of the morose Captain Leigh 
who takes to drink after becoming an unmarried father, as though 
entitled to usurp the unmarried mother's state of being ruined. He is 
reformed by the stage clergyman's counterpart, Sister Mary. After he 


has lied like any female vampire about the irregularity of his past — the 
mere fact that he has to do so shows there was something in the air — 
she promises to marry him; on learning the truth she changes her 
mind. When war breaks out in Africa, Sister Mary is a Red Cross 
nurse in a fort commanded by Captain Leigh while the mother of his 
child is in a doomed mission. Much is made of the soldier's heroism 
in leaving the woman he loves to rescue the woman he loves no longer, 
but he is soon free to marry the former because in the battle the latter 
is the first to fall (nobody asks who fired the shot). 

Since that was " pretty " a retort was needed — a situation which 
must be borne in mind if justice is to be done to a scrap of almost for- 
gotten history. It was in 1887 that Pinero wrote The Profligate, which 
may look like answering one melodrama with another melodrama until 
we see how the need for it arose. All that the overwrought scenes set 
forth is the remorse of a husband who meets the girl he once betrayed, 
but this was something that had to be said, and now, when playgoers 
knew there was an intellectual aura arising out of gloom, was the time 
for saying it. Two years passed. At length, in the April of 1889, a 
play had to be found for the opening of a new theatre, the Garrick in 
Charing Cross Road. The Profligate, with John Hare in the title role, 
was an instant success and ran for over 100 performances ; it went on 
tour for the summer, which was then the " dead season " in town, and 
returned to the Garrick for the autumn — only to find that its moral 
was neither denied nor accepted but merely taken for granted. But it 
had done its work — heroes would still cast their mistresses aside, but 
the incident would not be called pretty. Even that achievement was 
ignored very soon. As early as the autumn of 1 8 89 mockers had begun 
to quote passages from the dialogue about the way a man's wild oats 
thrust their ears not only through the floor-boards of his home but also 
between the paving-stones over which he walks with the wife who 
fondly imagines that he has been good. 

Paris also tried change. The Theatre Libre, in 1887, began in a 
narrow, very muddy and dimly-lit alley — the Passage de l'Elysee des 
Beaux Arts — and the fashionable world had to ask the way at a wine- 
shop at the corner. " A comparatively unknown actor named 
Antoine " was the manager. He was soon famous for his violently 
dictatorial methods, his contempt for all established theatrical ways and 
his devices for making his performances look like happenings in real 
life. But what he insisted upon still more emphatically was that they 
should be unlike happenings in real theatres. At his club he staged 
La Puissance Des Tenebres de M. le Comte Leon Tolstoi. As a remark- 
ably opposite treatment of the prevailing idea he put on Les Fossiles by 


the Vicomte Francois de Curel. The Due de Chantemelle marries off 
the girl who is with child by him to his dying son, in order that the 
direct descent may not be extinguished. However that might shock 
or startle it could be comprehended by minds accustomed to nothing 
but melodrama. Ibsen's Les Revenants, another study at the Theatre 
Libre of a profligate father, a dying son and the sowing of wild oats, was 

20 The Truth about Virtue 


" THE conscience is very conservative," Ibsen said — so conservative 
that its instinctive revolt against what was " revolting " could not be 
overcome. Venereal disease spread through immorality : therefore, 
the subject itself was immoral : so conscience argued, condemning the 
healer along with the sinner. When Les Revenants was first played in 
London as Ghosts, Victorian sensitiveness expressed itself in language 
that leaves very much the same impression on the mind as the gramo- 
phone record of a shriek. This has become a commonplace of 
theatrical history. Its whys and wherefores are still, and always will 
be, worth investigating anew. So severe a shock cannot be fully 
apprehended at once. 

Ibsen let his plays speak for themselves. Critics in all countries took 
it upon themselves to explain those plays for him (or to him). Where 
nobody has succeeded to date, nobody is likely to succeed yet awhile, 
but here a not dissimilar task must be undertaken. Those plays are 
not part of our subject, but their effect upon it unavoidably is. They 
were acid to alkali. Their most resolute champion said that to imagine 
them in the regular run of London plays was impossible. There was 
direct antagonism. They destroyed the melodramatic faith. They 
obliterated Providence. They made no compromise with virtue 

"Virtue?" Ibsen could be imagined saying, "I'll give them 

For many years he had been stage-manager of a Norwegian theatre 
where melodrama had regularly followed melodrama. And having 
listened to everlasting sentiments upon the one subject, he set his mind 
to see the truth about it. No dramatist before or since saw it so starkly. 
He stated his resolve in his poetic drama, Brand. Here is the first of the 
stage pastors, totally unlike all others. Here is the man of God, utterly 
unheeding of all else. The cost of virtue can never be too high. All 
must perish for it. So the great preacher Kierkegaard was testifying 
and Ibsen's theme at first was as simple as that. Yet his plays were 



called social dramas, welcomed by social reformers and interpreted as 
answers to social problems. Their dramatic spell was so great that 
they could have been interpreted as answers to any questions. But in 
cold blood, away from the theatre, logic cannot work out how A 
DoWs House solves the difficulties of marriage. Feminists took up a 
" serve him right " attitude to the husband without reckoning that the 
wife who slammed the door behind her was the one to suffer. From 
the sociological point of view Ruskin had already argued, " The 
woman's power is for rule ". From the practical point of view Barrie 
would do better with The Twelve Pound Look, where the wife buys a 
typewriter before she leaves home. This was not Ibsen's reasoning. 
His Nora is so intent upon virtue that she insists upon suffering for it in 
order to put herself to the test. She has the soul of Brand, set like his 
on the destruction of her material self. The play is not a marriage 
settlement and the fact that it was accepted as such merely proves how 
intent London was on Social Reform. 

Virtue unrewarded is Ibsen's subject in those plays which first made 
his name. For its sake in Rosmersholm the lovers drown themselves ; 
in Little Eyolf the parents refuse to be comforted ; in The Master 
Builder ambition cannot rest short of death. Virtue here is Ibsen's idea 
of virtue. What the world respects under that name he vivisects. 
Female virtue inspires him in Hedda Gabler to a psychopathological 
examination of physical chastity. The virtuous wife and virtuous 
lover in Ghosts share, solely because of their virtue, the profligate 
huband's guilt for the disease which dooms the son. What immediate 
influence did these scientific demonstrations have on the popular stage? 
They took effect in the way a family Bible would if brought down 
heavily upon a sinner's head ; he might be expected to benefit from such 
teaching but not to find in it any means of grace. Playwrights mended 
their ways in a safe and profitable compromise which proved how 
little they understood a genius essentially uncompromising. " The 
wages of virtue is death " was nailed to his door. Plays on the New 
Model all proclaimed, as though excited by a great discovery, " The 
wages of sin is death ". Even Ibsen's most ardent champions were 
unaware that tins moralist wore his rue with a difference. William 
Archer constantly strove to expound him like a Shorter Catechist ; the 
difference between them cries aloud when the puritan critic comments, 
" Not an altogether pleasing anecdote ", on the origin of The Master 
Builder. Ibsen, chuckling over his wine, boasted of an adventure with 
" a spice of devilry in it ", when he met a Viennese girl who said she 
preferred to lure away other women's husbands than to have one of her 
own. " She did not get hold of me," said the old fellow, " but I got 


hold of her — for my play." His last play disowned all his interpreters, 
who retaliated by dismissing it as incomprehensible. 

The " New Spirit " was not one spirit but several — irreconcilable 
and united only in hatred for the old. This stirred a prophet in Russia, 
Tolstoy ; a novelist in England, Hardy ; a painter in France, Cezanne ; 
and in Italy an actress, Duse, who overthrew melodrama exactly as 
Ibsen had done. She was the child of strolling players, born in such a 
wagon as the one dragged through mire in Scarron's " Roman 
Comique ". In their company she played blood-and-thunder ; when 
she won fame her repertoire ranged from La Dame Aux Camelias to 
La Tosca ; yet before an Ibsen heroine came her way she was playing in 
his manner. She was praised by all the greatest critics of her time, 
whether they belonged to the new school or the old. But it is an 
anonymous article in The Theatre which best measures her achievement. 
Since the art that conceals art is for popular purposes no art at all, she 
steadily lost ground as people discovered, in acting that attained its 
highest and purest form, " nothing to startle or excite ". In England 
players had to dazzle, convulse or frighten; her greatness would 
eventually be shown, " in the absolute inability of anyone who has 
once seen her to ever again accept the old-style acting as supreme ". 
Whoever went away complaining, found something missing when 
next he saw his more conventional favourite. Duse had raised the 
standard of acting, and the day of brilliant jugglery was past. Her 
art was so perfect that it gave the effect of truth and was " accepted as 
nature ". 

In Duse's repertoire Ibsen's females found strange playmates. La 
Dame aux Camelias, Froufrou, Fedora and La Tosca were as natural to 
her as Nora, Desdemona and Hedda Gabler. In Germany she found 
Magda, heroine of Sudermann's Heimat, which was acclaimed as a 
masterpiece by champions of the Frei Buhne. It sketched a Prussian 
officer's household. The daughter rebels, runs away to study singing, 
is left by her lover with a child, becomes a prima donna, returns at the 
call of homesickness, meets her lover and thanks him for making a 
woman of her. " Honest " or " dishonest " had become immaterial 
in her eyes, which was hailed as a new thought though public opinion 
had decided long ago that prime donne were above the law. In 
London, Duse found Paula, heroine of Pinero's The Second Mrs. 
Tanqueray, acclaimed as a masterpiece when played by George 
Alexander and Mrs. Patrick Campbell at the St. James's in 1893, though 
what it boiled down to was Paula's resolve, simply because her former 
lover came back as her step-daughter's fiance, to shoot herself. English 
society, it was implied, required from its women what German 


militarism required from its men. The most casual survey of Mayfair 
would have exposed the He. In a society renowned for well-preserved 
men and well-kept women, highly respected Paulas battened on their 
pasts while lovers, once ruined, came rushing back to fling newly-made 
fortunes at their feet and be ruined again. Male ruin meant recent loss 
of cash, property, credit. Female ruin might mean recent acquisition 
of cash, property, credit. But Paula marched by the side of Froufrou 
in the crocodile of expiatory heroines who made triumphal progress 
through the world's tears. 

In these trans-ocean performances Mrs. Campbell proved herself the 
most temperamental femmefatale, with her air of mystery and slumber- 
ing passion. But it was still Bernhardt who embodied the secret 
dreams of the disillusioned, dying century. In Paris she passed from 
management at the Ambigu to proprietorship of the Porte-Saint- 
Martin, next of the Renaissance, and then of the Theatre des Nations 
which naturally became the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt. From the 
prosaic Secret Service of Sardou she ascended to the poetic romances of 
Rostand — melodrama in its most delicate forms. In his VAiglon she 
made Napoleon's son her part no matter who else should try to step 
into his thigh-boots. In her repertoire the little subaltern mixed oddly 
with what Walkley described as the embodiment of Oriental exoticism : 
" The strange, chimaeric, idol-woman : a compound of Baudelaire's 
Vierge du Mai, Swinburne's Our Lady Of Pain, Gustave Moreau's 
Salome, Leonardo's enigmatic Mona Lisa ". Alligatress, strangled 
dove and mating tigress are among the things James Agate mentioned 
while writing about her. At three score years and ten she had a leg 
amputated. That did not end her career, and when she played the 
drug-stricken youth in Daniel, at the age of seventy-five, there was one 
critic who swore she had never acted more brilliantly (at which some 
of the old guard who could not separate acting from physical magne- 
tism objected). 

She made French the language of cosmopolitan drama, though it was 
not solely by virtue of her magnetism that the spotlight from the 
firmament fell no longer on ballerina and prima donna. Fin de siecle 
expressed itself in majesty of histrionics ; the departing glory of the 
nineteenth century was a blaze of great Thespians. She-tragedies 
stalked the earth in dignified gloom — and yet they were not the quin- 
tessence of it all. The old world chose not one of these actresses but an 
actor for its champion. An era was ending in a joust at the footlights — 
Ibsen versus Irving. 




LXIX The Ironmaster (St. James's, 1884) : Mr. LXX La Dame Aux Camelias (Lyric, 1893) 
and Mrs. Kendal as Philippe and Claire Eleonora Duse as Marguerite Gautier 


Cyril Maude as Drummle, George Alexander as Tanqueray and Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Paula 

iPSSf 1 ^ 



£&' • 

LXXIII The Fate of Eugene Aram (Lyceum, 1873) : Henry Irving as Aram and Isabel Bateman as Ruth 



LXXIV Dante (Drury Lane, 1903) : Henry Irving as Dante and William Mollison as Cardinal Colonna 

LXXV and LXXVI As Mathias in The Bells, Act II and Act III (Lyceum, 1871) 

LXXVII As Louis XI (Lyceum, 1878) 

LXXVIII As Vanderdecken (Lyceum, 1878) 

"^H* -""">» 


1 i ^ 




{ ) 









LXXIX Tr/7/>y (Haymarket, 1895) : Tree, at piano, as Svengali 

LXXX The Only Way (Lyceum, 1899) : Martin Harvey as Sydney Carton 

2i Crime Repentant 


OPPRESSED racehorses, Nonconformist Romans, limelit parsons, 
grovelling adulteresses and suicidal philanderers — had these been the 
best melodrama could offer now, in the decline of the age, the old 
spirit would have died unlamented. But romance, even as it revealed 
itself to be an insubstantial pageant, faded in glamour such as had never 
yet been seen, the glamour of Irving's final quarter of the century at the 
Lyceum. Remorse, regret, repentance, always apparent in melo- 
drama, were still more dominant now. That doomed fabric set itself 
to illumine memory for ever with the blaze of its funeral pyre against 
the sunset. 

No conscious resolve made these final scenes sombre, yet a kind of 
sublime intuition guided the master-hand. Shadows of many a great 
exit recorded by history on the world's great stage come and go among 
them. The Martyr King passes to the scaffold, Becket steps down from 
the chancel, Wolsey fades into nothingness, Louis XI on his death-bed 
snatches the crown, Coriolanus is betrayed. Is it by accident that all 
these come together? Or is it, though not of set purpose, by some 
unknown, unguessed-at, design? Take it as blind chance and still 
that grand climax of the Victorian stage will overawe every inward 

Its beginnings are here and there in plays of the 1 86os. Bateman, 
having brought one daughter to London in Leah, now returned with 
another, Isabel, to appear in Mrs. Bateman's Fanchette, The Will O' The 
Wisp. George Sand's " La Petite Fadette " had been twice dramatized 
in Paris and then by Charlotte Nirch-Pfeiffer as Die Grille, which went, 
like all good German plays, to America. In 1857 it was acted at the 
Stadt Theatre, New York; three years later it became Fanchon in 
English at the St. Charles, New Orleans; other versions, called The 
Little Fadette and The Cricket, shared in its abounding prosperity. 
Naturally the Batemans foresaw a good season for their daughter in 
London, which had neglected this piece apart from one version, The 
, Grasshopper, written for the Olympic by Ben Webster junior in 1867. 



Some parts are child's play for those suited to them and impossible to 
anybody else; and here was one such. The witch's grand-daughter 
must be elfin to throw a spell over Landry, son of the farmer who 
embittered the old woman's life; Isabel Bateman seemed no such 
woodland sprite when Fanchette opened at the Lyceum on 1 1 Septem- 
ber, 1 871. There was some rivalry too from the Standard, where 
Fanchonette ; or, The Cricket, yet another variant from America, 
appeared at the end of the month. Bateman, noting the success of 
Henry Irving as Landry, cast him for Jingle in Albery's Pickwick. 

The public still ignored them and the Lyceum was about to close. 
In desperation Bateman let Irving have his own way. Here was an 
actor with much to show for his five years' experience of London. 
Yet what precisely was his professional standing, what kind of actor 
could his provincial training in nearly 600 parts be expected to pro- 
duce? " Crummies ", is the answer. " A strong smack of the country 
actor in his appearance, and a suggestion of the type immortalized by 
Dickens in Mr. Lenville and Mr. Folaire ", Sir Squire Bancroft said of 
him — as a leading gentleman of the drawing-room theatre might be 
expected to say of a mummer who played anything from wolf or ogre 
in Christmas pantomimes to Gothic heroes of" twopence coloured " 
style. The list at the end of Brereton's " Life of Henry Irving ", 
despite some thirty small parts in Shakespeare, is dominated by plays 
that could not be called old-fashioned because they had never been 
fashionable. When he grasped his first opportunities in town, Irving 
wore the clothes of contemporary life both in drama and comedy, and 
was acclaimed by playgoers accustomed to the new natural style. On 
the other hand, directly he chose for himself he steadily looked back- 
wards with faith in the past and no belief in the future. He was both 
praised for this and blamed for it. What matters is that it was so. He 
made a golden harvest of old customs, and emphasized his nostalgia 
still further by choosing characters who looked back. The recitals 
in which he had introduced himself to London included Hood's poem, 
" The Dream of Eugene Aram ". Now he set his heart on a melo- 
drama which likewise lived over again a murder done many years 

Paris had taken a fancy to Le Juif Polonais by Emile Erckmann and 
Alexandre Chatrian, which opened at the Theatre Cluny in 1869 and 
was still running. In England it was classed as blood-and-thunder and 
translated as such for gaffs up and down the country. Burnand's 
version, Paul Zegers ; or, The Dream Of Retribution, was put on at the 
Marylebone on 13 November, 1871, and failed. The Bells, Leopold 
Lewis's version, had been declined by Bateman. The author sent it to 


Irving, who saw how the spine-chilling effect he caused at his recitals of 
verse could be magnified if he played Mathias, the guilty burgomaster, 
in this play. " You — a burgomaster? " was Bateman's comment but 
he consented. It suited Irving's purpose so admirably that he knew 
his hour had struck when the curtain rose on The Bells at the Lyceum 
on 25 November, 1871. It opened idly with gossip in the burgo- 
master's house, first about a mesmerist at the fair and then about the 
murder of a Jewish traveller in his sleigh fifteen years ago. Suddenly 
Mathias hears the tinkle of bells. Then, in a vision, the Jew drives 
past in his sleigh, turns his face, which is ashy pale, and fixes his eyes 
upon Mathias who utters a prolonged cry of terror — " The bells ! The 
bells ! " — and falls senseless. In his bedroom when some revellers have 
bade him good-night, Mathias dreams that he is on his trial for the 
murder, and dreams also that he is sent into a trance by the mesmerist 
and that in this trance he betrays his guilt by showing how he listened 
for the sleigh, how with a savage roar he struck down his victim, how 
he bore the body to the limekiln — " Go into the fire, Jew, go into the 
fire ". The dream ends. It is morning. The door is broken down 
by fearful neighbours. Mathias gasps, " The rope ! The rope ! Cut 
the rope ! " As he stares vacantly about him, his hands clutch at his 
throat and he dies. Death from remorse at last takes on meaning. 
" First 'e bores yer. Then 'e paralyses yer ", as a galleryite once said. 

That first night was recorded by G. R. Sims. He was present by 
accident. Nearly two years before this he had been to the Queen's in 
Long Acre to see Mrs. Rousby in Tom Taylor's ' Twixt Axe And Crown. 
Near him in the pit a " shortish, square-shouldered gentleman with 
long whiskers of a bright red hue " was thinking aloud. When the 
manager was brought he answered, " Shut up ! I want to hear Tom 
Taylor's history ", and was dragged backwards over the benches and 
pushed down the steps into the street. Sims, who gave evidence which 
gained Lewis a farthing damages, renewed that friendship on 25 
November, 1 871, on catching sight of a pair of long red whiskers com- 
ing out of a public house in the Strand. Leopold Lewis, with a thick 
woollen comforter round his neck, followed the whiskers and a strong 
odour of rum. Together they went to the Lyceum. The audience 
was rather bored until the scene of the dream, when there was a burst 
of applause; but these two had no idea that The Bells would " take 
London by storm and be Henry Irving's stepping-stone to a fame that 
would be worldwide ". Leopold Lewis, while he did very little after- 
wards, retained a false idea of his own value as a dramatist until his 
death, at the Royal Free Hospital, in the February of 1890. 

" Packed houses " warmed the air of the shabby theatre. Bateman, 


dipping his fingers into gold and silver cascading through the box- 
office window, expanded visibly and regularly supped parties after the 
play. Actors came and came again with their friends. Wills was 
brought and made such an impression that Bateman gave him a five 
years' agreement, beginning with a play for his daughter Isabel. What 
was good enough for the best actresses in the world would, he thought, 
be good enough for her. In Ancient Athens a tragedy about Medea had 
been popular. It had been adapted to nineteenth-century taste by 
Legouve for Rachel ; and though she had not acted it, Ristori had. At 
Wallack's Matilda Heron had played a version of her own with such 
success that E. T. Smith had bought the play in 1861 for Avonia Jones 
at Drury Lane. When The Bells ended its run of 151 nights in the 
summer of 1872, Medea In Corinth filled the gap until Wills had written 
another play at express speed so that the leading lady and the leading 
gentleman of the company could appear together. They did so that 
September in his Charles I — four dramatic scenes, each exhibiting a 
different phase of the King's character. It moved the audience to 
tears. It did as much to anyone with a respect for history without 
lessening the effect of the King's last meeting with his wife and children, 
a scene most competent actors could make effective. 

The backward trend of Irving's thoughts fitted in with the ideas of 
manager and dramatist, for Bateman trusted only in what had already 
been approved and Wills liked his stories ready-made. Thus each for 
a reason of his own agreed upon Eugene Aram, and that play opened in 
the April of 1873. It adopted the current craze for the retrospective 
because Hood's verses already had this technique. When Eugene 
Aram is hiding in the churchyard, he tells Ruth as he is dying in her 
arms how years ago he tracked the evil-doer to the cave. Again 
Irving " paralysed 'em"; having imagined the murder, he fell 
crouching before the phantom ". 

In Lytton's Richelieu, revived in the September of 1873, he relied on 
those moments when the cardinal " lay back in his chair, apparently 
dying, but watching, like an old fox, the action of the irresolute King 
and the trembling secretaries ". Philip, by Hamilton Aide, which 
followed in the February of 1874, is the tale of an innocent man 
suspected by himself of murder. This one was based on an episode 
from Balzac. On a parapet overlooking the Guadalquivir Philip 
shoots his brother, Juan, to defend their mother's hired companion, 
Marie. Years later when she is Philip's wife in Brittany, Juan arrives, 
tries to compromise her and hides in the oratory. Philip, reminding 
her of Balzac's story, orders the door to be walled up until she con- 
fesses who is there. 


CO P— H 

§ 1 
M* 1 


5 d 


To Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and Richard III succeeded the crudest of 
all things brought from the theatres of the Boulevard du Crime. The 
Lyons Mail (Reade's version) had Irving's confidence. Even in its own 
day it had been hack-work. Now it was regarded as a rough draft, 
lasting little more than two hours in performance, although the mount- 
ing fears of Lesurques and bloodthirsty frenzy of Dubosc, if fully 
expressed instead of being merely indicated, would have provided 
action enough for three — but Irving preferred to speak volumes 
with a glance than half a page with his tongue. He was satisfied with 
an ending no better than a conjuring trick after great expectations had 
been aroused by Dubosc's bravado. In the final scene the villain takes 
no interest in the safety of his own neck : with an unshakable faith in 
his own skill to overawe and dupe all comers, he wishes to enjoy the 
spectacle of his victim's execution. He rents a balcony overlooking the 
scaffold. He drinks brandy and sends Fouinard out for more. Sheer 
sadistic delight overwhelms him. " There they are, there they are! 
The cart at last. There's Choppard, there's Courriol, and there's the 
fellow they say is so like me. You're almost at home now, my gentle- 
men. Gee whoa ! Gee whoaa ! Get on, you brutes. Stand aside, 
stand aside, and let the cart come on. At last ! At last ! They're 
mounting the scaffold at last ! Damn that fellow why don't he bring 
the brandy. Oh, indeed, they're favouring the crowd with their last 
dying speech. No, they're not. Why it's Janette. Janette spouting. 
Curse me, if the people and soldiers aren't mixing together. Why 
there's Fouinard. Fouinard too. Has the beast turned traitor? My 
name ! They're pointing here ! They're speaking of me." Line by 
line approaches the crash where the megalomaniac, confronted by un- 
yielding reality, cannot believe it — a situation of such power that at 
other times it has arrested attention in the feeblest melodrama. Reade, 
as quoted by Craig, passes straight on to, " Nabbed — nabbed at last, but 
they shan't have me cheap ". As Dubosc opened the door Irving 
changed places with the actor who served as his double, swiftly donned 
the costume of Lesurques while out of sight, and reappeared amid cheers. 1 

Merely because The Lyons Mail had come from the Boulevard du 

1 Such prolonged popularity was won by French plays which employed 
" doubling " that the theatres of the Boulevard were credited with having invented 
the device. But it was tried at the Old Vic a few years earlier. When John 
Thomas Haines' nautical drama, The Wizard Of The Waves ; or, The Ship Of The 
Avenger, was given there in 1840, one actor played both Captain Faulkner, R.N., 
and the mysterious pirate who turns out to be his twin brother. Another 
example of doubling occurred in Vanderdecken ; or, The Flying Dutchman, by 
T. P. Taylor, performed at the City of London Theatre in 1846, with the skipper 
and his evil genius as a " dual part ". Le Courrier De Lyon had its first per- 
formance in 1850. 


Crime Irving was likened to Frederic Lemaitre (who had not played 
it), as he in turn had been likened to Edmund Kean. The three actors 
were the beginning, middle and end of romantic frenzy. What was 
exultation in the first became triumphant zest in the second and de- 
clined in the third to remorse or profound melancholy. Since popular 
entertainment cannot exist except as the expression of its time, this rise 
and fall graphs the spirit of the nineteenth century. Interpret the signs 
as you please, seeing in the popularity of these dreams of fictitious 
crimes either a secret sympathy with evil-doing or some more com- 
plicated frame of mind which calls for a greater effort at discernment. 
But it is strange to note how few parts were inherited by Irving from 
Edmund Kean and Frederic Lemaitre, his predecessors in the tradition 
of romanticized murderers. He borrowed instead from Macready, 
Charles Kean and Fechter, actors unlike himself except in one signifi- 
cant respect — these three were, so critics said, gentlemanly. With that 
quality went opulence of scenery. In the 1 850s Charles Kean had given 
a set form to management for leading actors of the century to copy. 
One method, the grand manner in scenery, costumes, lighting, page- 
antry, processions and stage crowds, served both for Shakespeare and 
for romance that was melodrama in excelsis. Charles Kean's curiously 
exact sense of the spirit of the age is proved by the way three or four of 
the plays he first brought upon the English stage were kept together by 
succeeding actor-managers as the nucleus of the romantic drama. 
The Lyons Mail, Louis XI, The Corsican Brothers and Faust And Mar- 
guerite, for fifty years mingled with Hamlet, Richard III, Lear and Mac- 
beth, as though their equals in colour and form. 

Whatever difference existed between Louis XI in 1854 and 1878 was 
vague. That elaborately established " character " left little choice not 
only in make-up or costume but also in the broad effects of piety, 
cowardice, malignity, cunning, superstition and sardonic humour. 
Charles Kean had " paralysed 'em " when he, as Louis, resurrected 
himself to reclaim his crown in death. Irving, master of the stillness 
of crouched tiger, coiled snake, compressed mainspring, could but 
make the same effect. But while Charles Kean's portrait of Louis XI 
exists for antiquarians, Irving's is dominant, proverbially sinister. 
Musty the play may have grown, but what he created out of it — 
shrinking, fearful in nerves and body, grovelling in superstitious dread, 
yet still maintaining his claim to the crown with fingers that clutch in 
their last flicker — that figment is plainer to the inward eye than the 
real Louis XI. 

All who upheld the romantic tradition — actor, author, audience — 
were trying to make time stand still. Its most eager champions were 


aware of the ever-increasing speed of social change. Some parts of 
London's jungle had reached such a state of civilization that young 
women were employed in large numbers as clerks. Masculine breasts, 
still filled by the chivalrous desire to protect, also felt the fear of a de- 
cline in wages. Violence was necessary to romance ; without it the 
sexes mingled in the cold light of equality. The London of taverns 
was being transformed into the London of tea-shops, not conducive to 
masculine swagger. Life's sobriety created faith in realism; the 
stronger it grew the more frantic grew the yearning for last glimpses of 
departing glamour. Minds not so affected might admire Irving but 
could not feel as the public did. Vanderdecken, by Percy Fitzgerald and 
W. G. Wills, staged at the Lyceum in the June of 1878, meant little 
to the critical. The Flying Dutchman, looking for a woman to save 
his soul, chooses Thekla, is killed by her lover in a duel, flung into the 
sea and washed ashore (by realistic waves) alive. 

Thekla was Isabel Bateman's last appearance in the company. 
Bateman died in 1875, and his widow took control until his lease 
ended, when she took control of Sadler's Wells instead. From 30 
December, 1878, Irving was the Lyceum's manager, and his first new 
production was Lytton's The Lady Of Lyons. As Pauline, Ellen Terry 
made her first appearance in the company. She was not a Duse, not a 
Bernhardt; possibly she laid no claim to greatness; no one can tell 
because to see her was to feel a personal devotion which made cool 
judgment unthinkable. At thirty years of age she was radiant with 
this spell, though possibly less radiant than later. Fault was found 
because she could not represent the wounded pride and stung resent- 
ment that had no part in her. If she had learned, as Pauline does, that 
the man she loved was an imposter, she would have flung her arms 
around him protectingly and laughed in the way of sympathy how- 
ever little she thought of him as the hero of a play. Irving, who had 
acted with her in his early London days, offered her parts she had already 
made her own. Her Portia, at the Prince of Wales's in 1875, had been 
praised for bold innocence, lively wit and quick intelligence, grace and 
elegance of manner, tenderness and depth of passion beneath a " frolic- 
some exterior ". Was it Portia or Ellen Terry herself the critic so 
described ? Her lightness of heart was to be the perfect foil to Irving's 
sable muse. 

It was, Walkley wrote, in the romantic rather than the tragic 
repertory of Shakespeare, " in the figures painted from the rich 
fantastic palette of the Italian Renaissance ", that Irving walked con- 
fidently. Now he played Shylock, a figure other than the one Shake- 
speare drew ; the very sublimity of his hatred and the unflinching fer- 


vour of his faith overwhelmed all that defamed him in the text ; and 
Ellen Terry added her Portia to the legend. Here were two opposites, 
the saturnine and the blithe. Neither had exactly the qualities for 
Romeo And Juliet; their partnership lives — in that vague and curious 
thing, the inherited theatrical memory — as the perfect Benedick and 
Beatrice. Whenever Much Ado About Nothing is played they will be 
spoken of. Mephistopheles and Marguerite, Wolsey and Katharine, 
Becket and Rosamund, Lear and Cordelia, Dr. Primrose and Olivia, 
King Arthur and Guinevere fade as they recede in time. But the 
thought of so mordant a Benedick with so volatile a Beatrice will 
always be among those achievements of acting which playgoers speak 
of long, long after, as though they had seen them. 

Yet above all his triumphs remained The Bells. Not thousands but 
millions of voices tried to mimic his cry, " The bells ! The bells ! " 
One of the first curiosities of childhood then was to learn what that 
cry meant. People who abhorred the theatre knew whence it came, 
what it portended. It spread his fame everywhere. It was, in a world 
proud of Lipton and Whiteley , his trademark. It told people who were 
contentedly ignorant of art and letters the kind of goods he had to sell 
and they were willing to buy such glorious stuff though they did not 
recognize in it the splendour of despair. Nineteenth-century romance, 
knowing itself to be not another Renaissance, vainly tried not to find 
itself a hollow sham. With all its hankering after threats of wild 
behaviour it was steadfast in its resolve to be unwaveringly demure. 
This conflict between wish and will resolved itself in a compromise. 
Wild behaviour was past. The bushranger or swindler could then, 
as the sinner that repenteth, claim sympathy on condition that he was 
about to die. What tinged this stolid, respectable ideal with poetic 
feeling was the foreboding twilight which stole over all romance before 
the night. Irving's remorse had more in it than repentance. It was 
regret for what the Martyr King called " yesterday, bright yesterday " ; 
innocent or blood-stained, it was still to be desired. 

Murders and remorse. Dim masses of scenery in the soft light of 
gas " floats ". Heavy shadows outside the brilliant cone of the lime- 
light around the weird, lanky figure, shed from a lamp in which two 
gas-jets spluttered into flame upon a stick of lime. Violins in constant 
agitato. An audience — this audience, above all, though it enjoyed the 
joke of likening Irving to a creaking, rickety five-barred gate — respond- 
ing in shudders or tears. When and where had there ever been finer 
theatre? Adverse criticism served the purpose of making this clear. 
Old James Anderson, once a babe in Pizarro who had the privilege of 
wetting the great John Philip Kembles head, now spoke as a classic 


tragedian sanctified by many years of temperate approval. Irving, he 
said, had resurrected The Iron Chest more for his own gratification than 
the public's. The veteran commented that whereas Mathias in The 
Bells was a mercenary murderer for filthy lucre with the constant fear of 
gaol and hangman before his eyes, Mortimer in The Iron Chest was the 
worshipper o£ reputation whose crime arose through a sense of shame 
at its being tarnished by the blow of a ruffian. " When he came to tell 
the story of that fearful night, it appeared to me, the actor took more 
pains to vindicate the murder than the outraged honour that led to it. 
To my thinking the difference betwixt Mathias and Mortimer was not 
marked enough." It was true that outraged honour was not within 
Irving's range. It was as alien to his feelings as resentful pride was to 
Ellen Terry's. Passions born of vanity in the small mind never 
belonged to their gracious realm, where egotism, petty or monstrous, 
dwindled into something for amusement, since its tragedies became 
comedies, like Malvolio, when seen at a distance. The wide sweeping 
view was ever seen on the Lyceum stage. " What a panorama he has 
given us ! " Walkley exclaimed, citing Illyrian seascapes, Veronese 
gardens open to the moonlight, groves of cedar and cypress. Spacious- 
ness of setting matched spaciousness of mind. 

Of his plays from the Boulevard by way of the Princess's, The Cor- 
sican Brothers had the richest tinge of romance. The bare, leafless trees 
of the silent forest, the frozen pond, the slowly descending snow, the 
deep orange and red bars of the setting winter sun, echoed his own 
melancholy. Here is the unmistakable flash of Dumas in a romance 
not to be bracketed with any others. It dispenses with all the para- 
phernalia of last-minute rescues, love interest, happy or unhappy 
ending ; it has no heroine to speak of; yet playgoers could not shake off 
their nostalgia over that silence, broken as the red light fades on the 
snow by the sharp note of steel upon steel till the last gasp of death. 

Patina was the quality of Irving's art. Taking familiar characters 
that were proverbial or legendary, he gave them the indefinable gloss 
that time puts upon enduring masterpieces. Better an old play to 
make it clear the play was not there to be criticized — to keep minds 
focused not on plot or dialogue but on the thing seen. Better, almost, 
a dead play in order that discerning eyes should measure how miracu- 
lously he brought it to life. The greater the effort needed the more 
greatly his power could manifest itself. Around him was the setting for 
this gleaming gem. That was his strength now and would be his weak- 
ness. The better the setting the more meaningless it would be without 
him. He dared not fall out. 

By all accounts Ellen Terry and Hermann Vezin gave a perfect 

LXXXI and LXXXII The Christian (Lyceum, 1907) : Matheson Lang as John Storm and Alice Crawford 
as Glory Quayle. (Left) " God sent me to kill you, Glory". (Right) Glory hides her love to save John 


LXXXIII The Prodigal Son (Drury Lane, 1905) : The Prodigal (George Alexander) refuses to reveal the 
name of the woman who has caused him to forge his father's name 

LXXXIV The Bondman (Drury Lane, 1906) : Jason (Frank Cooper) becomes Bondman to Michael 
(Henry Ainley). Father Ferrati (Austin Melford) : " I'll leave you together. You don't want me " 


LXXXV The Whip (Drury Lane, 1909) : The favourite is saved 



performance of Wills' Olivia. They had done so at the Court and they 
did so again at the Lyceum when Irving was ill. But the play staged 
at its best was of less account than when it was used, against its nature, 
to serve the purposes of genius. Dr. Primrose as Irving played him 
could not, on Bernard Shaw's evidence, be reconciled to the story. 
Yet to prove this point the critic used such words as beautiful, dignified, 
perfect. It was a performance undertaken in defiance of his destiny. 
" Baa — baaa — baaa " Irving bleated softly at rehearsal (on Gordon 
Craig's testimony) in self-criticism of his way of over-painting a 
sanctity he could not believe in. Compare this with its opposite. " A 
more horribly evil-looking beast of prey than his Macaire never crossed 
the stage ", said Shaw, which disproves the statement, so often made, 
that he was biased against the Lyceum. 

That Irving could create a character unlike any so far known to the 
footlights was demonstrated by Digby Grant, monument of class- 
conscious vanity in James Albery 's Two Roses — which enabled him to 
reverse his usual mood by depicting an old scoundrel without any 
conscience or sense of guilt whatever. But Irving preferred old parts 
to new. The Devil, his dearest project, had been played by all manner 
of actors in all manner of plays — several, including Frederic Lemaitre, 
Charles Kean, Wallack and Phelps, in versions of Faust. There was 
a challenge to the shade of Macready in Byron's Werner ; * another to 
Ben Webster in Watts Phillips' French Revolutionary melodrama, 
The Dead Heart ; another to Fechter, who had appeared at the Lyceum 
in 1865 in a dramatization of " The Bride of Lammermoor " (Palgrave 
Simpson's The Master Of Ravenswood) when Irving put on yet another 
version, H. C. Merivale's Ravenswood. 

At the zenith of his life his thoughts were valedictory. No mere 

accident made him choose characters renowned for the ending of their 

greatness. Cardinal Wolsey in the spring of 1892 was followed by 

Lear in the autumn, and in the spring of 1893 by Tennyson's Becket 

with his cry of 

Back, I say ! 
Go on with the office. Shall not Heaven be served 
Though earth's last earthquake clash'd the minster-bells, 
And the great deeps were broken up again, 
And hiss'd against the sun ? 

Throughout 1893 and 1894 he was playing Becket, with some other 
parts, in many cities of America and Britain. For some years past his 
thoughts had turned to the greatest sunset of all, the fading splendours 
of a vanished chivalry. The " Idylls of the King " could not be set 

1 With an interpolated scene showing the murder to keep the audience from 
wondering who did it. 


upon the stage, since Tennyson would not write a drama on the theme. 
Wills came forward instead; when commissioned to write King 
Arthur he had faithfully delivered the MS. and been paid £800, several 
years before this; in 1891 he died. His work had to be altered; it 
was sent to Comyns Carr, who preferred to write Arthurian blank 
verse of his own and had his way. What the Lyceum staged on 12 
January, 1895, was a triumph for both painter and actor. Shaw spoke 
of" the eternal beauty of the woodland spring " — also of " a great bit 
of acting " when King Arthur learns that his wife loves Lancelot. 

Mystical feeling we are too afraid of — we prefer the trivial explana- 
tion of hard fact to belief in the ebb of fortune so well known in all 
ages that it has many a name besides Nemesis. On climbing his stairs 
at Grafton Street, after the revival of Richard III on 19 December, 1896, 
Irving slipped and injured his knee. For two months he was unable to 
act and the effect on the box-office was such that the season ended in a 
loss of nearly .£10,000. By the time he had made a financial recovery, 
the store of scenery for all his productions except The Bells and The 
Merchant of Venice was destroyed by fire. Peter The Great, by Laurence 
Irving, in which he played the Tsar at the Lyceum in the January of 
1898, failed. His next choice was worse. That he was out of his 
reckoning in the harsh new century was made clear in May by The 
Medicine Man (H. O. Traill and Robert Hichens), a melodrama with 
little to be said for it. 

That summer his tour opened badly. In the autumn he had a serious 
illness. From misfortunes a man may recover, especially a man with 
many powerful friends. Irving's behaved queerly. Some did noth- 
ing. Others persuaded him ill-advisedly. Gordon Craig has put it 
plainly. Business men turned the Lyceum into a limited liability 
company when they could have turned it into the National Theatre, 
" so obvious and so easy, one would have thought, considering how 
many men of power and wealth had for twenty-seven years been 
Irving's guests at this same Lyceum." 

As his own power through illness and misadventure declined, he saw 
how many there were to inherit it. Tree's busy emulation until now 
had been a joke, and the public also had laughed when Jones's Tempter 
tried to steal the fires of Goethe's Mephisto. But when Trilby, Paul 
Potter's version of George du Maurier's novel, was staged at the Hay- 
market in 1895, the rivalry became real, for Tree could now exploit 
his sibilant articulation and the embarrassing paleness of his eye : 
Svengali, enthralling in the book, was horrible in the theatre. Next 
George Alexander (Faust at the Lyceum) discovered a new world of 
romance. When Anthony Hope's novel " The Prisoner of Zenda " 


was dramatized at the St. James's in 1896, the public already knew that 
Ruritania was a sanctuary for melodrama. Its hero found romance 
while on holiday ; and the millions who worked for fifty weeks each 
year with the dream of unknown happenings during the remaining 
fortnight, accepted his idea thankfully. Yet another management 
championing stage romance sprang from Irving's company. While 
with him on American tours Martin Harvey and his wife, Nell de Silva, 
decided to set up in management for themselves ; they began with The 
Only Way, a new version of " A Tale of Two Cities " with a plot 
entirely subordinated to Sydney Carton and the little sempstress, which 
ran on and off for forty years. 

Sardou's Robespierre was played at the Lyceum in 1899. Two years 
later Irving staged the last of his Shakespearean revivals, Coriolanus. 
From that autumn to the spring of 1902 he toured the United States. 
At the end of April he began his last season at the Lyceum ; it ended at 
a Saturday matinee of The Merchant Of Venice on 19 July, 1902. The 
theatre remained closed. On 23 April, 1903, it was put up for auction. 
No acceptable offer was made. There was a meeting of shareholders 
on 30 September. They were unmoved by a message from Irving, 
who was willing to "pay any share or proportion — say, for two or 
three years — of any sum which might be required to meet the expenses 
of debenture interest, sinking fund, and other necessary matters ". 
They decided to turn his theatre into a twice-nightly music-hall. 
Irving was now rehearsing at Drury Lane, where at the end of April 
he appeared in Dante, especially written for him by Sardou ; it had a 
moderate run in London and a short one on Broadway. But with 
The Merchant Of Venice, The Bells, The Lyons Mail and Louis XI he made 
a final triumphal progress to the United States and Canada, for the 
magic of his name had not dimmed. His last appearances in the chief 
cities of Wales, Scotland and England began in the autumn of 1904. 

" Farewell tour " meant impressive occasions which gave dignity to 
the dowdiest Theatre Royal. For the actor it meant one provincial 
hotel after another, varied only by week-end travel. " Beetles in the 
beds ", Ellen Terry's diary had recorded on one tour. Even with a 
chance to sleep, the ordeal was more than most men would face gladly. 
Young players in " theatrical lodgings ", even hardy mummers under 
a canvas flap, would not feel as desolate as the star in grim hotels. 
Neither the countryside nor the great cities had anything in common 
with the industrial centres, where everything was sacrificed to the 
making of money — usually for spending elsewhere. Gloom made the 
actor's work, nerve-wracking in its demands on failing health, a joyous 
relief from the torment of boredom. 


" Farewell tour " — municipal welcomes at an hour when rest ought 
to have been imperative, leisure in bleak bedrooms that would make the 
most unsentimental mind sick for home, distractions when he needed 
quiet, loneliness when he was ready to relax, harassing worries of 
management throughout the evening when concentration was needed, 
and then the return to a building upon which night descended like 
black death. A glass of wine, a cigar and some friends, were all he 
asked of private life. On tour he was denied even these. For twelve 
weeks in the autumn of 1904 he fulfilled engagements, some for three 
nights, that kept the soot of railways continually in his lungs. In 
January the ordeal began again. After a month of wintry weather his 
health broke down. Yet after a farewell season at Drury Lane, he 
planned an autumn tour. 

It began at Sheffield. The second week was at Bradford. The 
usual luncheon had to be attended, and at that he said the sands of his 
life were running fast. He played Shylock, Louis XI and then, on the 
Thursday, Mathias. Ellen Terry said that every time he heard the 
sound of the bells, the throbbing of his heart must have nearly killed 
him. " He used always to turn quite white — there was no trick about 
it. It was imagination acting physically on the body." His death as 
Mathias — the death of a strong, robust man — was different from all his 
other stage deaths. " He did really almost die — he imagined death 
with such horrible intensity. His eyes would disappear upwards, his 
face grow grey, his limbs cold." He had agreed that he would play 
the part no more. The next night he was Becket, suffering and dazed 
but unflinching. The courteous little speech to the audience, the sign- 
ing of a drawing for a small boy at the stage-door — " all that he had 
done for years, he did faithfully for the last time ". He was tired and 
asked one of his staff to drive with him to the hotel. Before this he had 
through fatigue stumbled and fallen on the way to his room. What 
oppressed him now was heavier. 

Feeling the shadow of death upon him he went into the hotel lobby 
and sat down on a chair. In his last breath, at that unforeseen moment 
in that out-of-the-way spot, there was an historic sense of the final. It 
was not simply the end of a man, of a great man, but the close of an age. 
The curtain had rung down at last on the performance of centuries. 
He had stood against the gale. There is nothing in all the wrack it 
blew away, for our respect, save his tall, gaunt, imposing figure. He 
alone compels some regret for the cloud-cap't towers that are gone. 
He raises a hand in warning that while we are avid for the truth it 
would be as well, since we can never know the whole truth, to believe 
in something more. 

22 High Life at Drury Lane 

The Derby Winner 

SOCIETY was faced with an urgent necessity to choose between the 
old and the new, between the ancient pretence that there was virtue in 
wealth and station and the modern insistence that virtue was a costly- 
business, demanding millions for slum clearance, education and old 
age pensions, among many other unexciting things. Which should it 
be, romance or realism ? Cavaliers were again at war, though mainly 
in words, with Roundheads, but the public as a whole were steadfastly 
resolved on unheroic compromise. That period is too recent to be seen 
in clear perspective. To some it is gay, festive, full-blooded, a revival 
of the Regency spirit with a milder dash of raffishness. To others it is 
the last sordid fling of " privilege " when imitation aristocrats were 
making what profits they could out of sweated labour in order to 
squander it lavishly before the new " deluge ". To a great many 
more these years were the " naughty 'nineties ", full of an incredible 
childishness which expressed itself as much in the imbecile fads of the 
New as in the self-conscious worldliness of the Old. That " charming, 
wicked creature " Lord Darlington in Wilde's Lady Windermere s Fan, 
at the St. James's in 1892, is nothing if not naughty. " Nowadays ", 
he says, " so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be 
good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to 
pretend to be bad." Lots of people say he has never really done any- 
thing wrong in the whole course of his life. " Of course they only 
say it behind my back." No pastiche written to-day could copy that 
even as caricature. 

While the general tone of/w de siecle society cannot yet be described 
confidently, evidence from the theatre is certain. Three of its mani- 
festations are beyond all dispute. The evocative spirit of Irving was 
held in awe by the many; the prophetic utterance of Shaw was 
respected by the few ; the exponents of compromise, no matter how 
glib or hollow, were the idols of the day. The period mainly expressed 
itself, after that third fashion, in plays which are melodramas disguised 
as advanced thought. " Problem play " was their current label. 



Though accepted as " New " they were drawing-room dramas with 
no other difference than that the chief character was a female sinner 
instead of a male sinner ; and the old notion that sins had sex still pre- 
vailed. When opinions on this point changed, the " problem play " 
was dismissed as rubbish, but when inspected as a photograph of late 
Victorian life it has a value not to be despised. Everybody in the group 
is, of course, carefully posed and wearing Sunday best. Deportment 
is shown as it ought to have been, not as it was. There was a vast 
difference between the two, though this was most determinedly 
ignored. What was not spoken of did not exist. Adultery was 
unspeakable. Therefore it existed only when the Divorce Court 
caused it to be made known in the public prints. All social offences 
were judged by this double standard. Any exalted personage who 
kept up appearances in the public eye might be as blatant as he pleased 
out of its focus. Any popular players, with no matter what skeletons 
in their cupboards, could scold " the modern girl " for not observing 
the proprieties. Any notorious swindler with cunning to keep the 
right side of the law would be able to preach righteousness and claim 
that a voice from heaven inspired him. The effect on the stage was an 
unwavering devotion to rigid moral principles such as the world had 
not seen since the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This has 
to be understood before anyone looks into fashion's shop-window as 
arranged by playwrights who were knighted for their services to the 

Take away the respectability from Pinero's plays and what is left? 
" So engagingly modern ", Walkley said of them even while pointing 
out the " wobbling " of their endings. He admired The Notorious 
Mrs. Ebbsmith at the Garrick in 1895, which was a warning against 
" irregular unions " in the manner of one who looked upon George 
Eliot as feeble-minded. The subject had been discussed ever since 
Olive Schreiner's " Story of an African Farm " appeared in 1883. 1 In the 
year of Mrs. Ebbsmith, Grant Allen, self-proclaimed atheist, brought 
out " The Woman Who Did ", which told how an ardent young 
feminist became an unmarried mother rather than turn traitor to her 
sex by becoming a wife. There was so widespread a desire to be 
shocked that the novel became a best-seller. At the same time out- 
raged feelings were glad to be soothed by Pinero, whose emancipated 
heroine was brought to repentance by a clergyman. In another exhibit 
of the importance of being respectable Pinero's heroine was guiltless. 
The Benefit Of The Doubt, at the Comedy in 1895, is about a wife who 
leaves the Divorce Court with her reputation not destroyed but seriously 

1 Dramatized at the New Theatre, 1938. 


damaged. One play is Jane Shore up to date. The other is East Lynne 
in Mayfair. They are merely two of the many bedridden dramas. 

If a fashionable atmosphere turned melodrama into something rich 
and strange, then the autumn dramas of Drury Lane had as good a 
claim to such promotion as any. One of the last achievements of 
Harris was to snap the rusty link between lowliness and virtue. If 
villains were entitled to a good education, so were heroines. The time 
might even come for upstarts to seduce women of good family, because 
that was now preferable to any domestic drama which deprived leading 
ladies of the utmost resources of the dressmaker's art, so robbing them 
alike of the sympathy of the stalls and the envy of the gallery. In 
future lasses that loved sailors would be minor parts at Drury Lane 
where all the abundance of the play panoramic would henceforth be 
bestowed upon drawing-room drama with its creed, voiced by Cap- 
tain Swift in his heart-felt cry of, " That's the essential thing to happi- 
ness — respectability ". This, the last thought of the gentlemanly bush- 
ranger when bound for what he called the Never Never Land, explains 
why society refused to change its lip-service to Virtue Triumphant, 
although it was a creed long discredited. Melodrama had become a 
term of abuse even by those who enjoyed it, and its purpose was mocked 
as " the painting of vice and virtue in bright colours " ; nobody 
believed that virtue paid, everybody knew that respectability did, but 
the one idea could not be openly derided without upsetting the other. 
While religion and science were becoming reconciled, society came to 
terms with the stage. The world of fashion flocked to the theatres 
(their own particular theatres) as never before, and in return for its 
half-guineas was held up to the admiration of the rest of the world as 
not only well-dressed and well-mannered but well-moralled, which it, 
quite openly, was not. Yet a little of the truth would out. 

Drury Lane had championed the cause of respectability even in the 
time of Harris. Rather than present any more common-or-garden 
heroes, he retired from the stage and transferred his place in the lime- 
light to gentlemen. As poverty was not respectable, the lowly of heart 
henceforth consisted of well-bred people afflicted with gaming debts or 
dressmakers' bills, and owning nothing except racing-stables occupied 
by the Winner of the next classic event. Villainy came in the shape of 
creditors who argued that because of the large sums owing to them 
they were legally entitled to the horse. Such iniquity brought down 
upon them social ostracism instead of, or as w r ell as, capital punishment. 
Sometimes there was no horse. Even then, without sport as an excuse, 
the new spirit insisted that Norman blood was more than simple faith 
where female virtue was concerned. 

1 5 6 


C-AAZM/VAi ^4^ MJCJ ^criv S' 2 


Pleasure (Drury Lane, 1887) 

Melodrama took this shape as early as 1887 in Pleasure by Meritt 
and Harris. Jessie is well-born, which excuses her for being pregnant — 
a novelty for spinster-heroines in melodrama at Drury Lane — because 
of Jack, the hero, who intends to marry her. But there is a villain, 
Major Randolph, and it is worth noting that majors have taken the place 
formerly occupied by baronets; since he hopes to inherit Jack's 
fortune, he has no wish to see the child born in wedlock and, therefore, 
heir to the estates. By unscrupulous slander he makes it appear that 



Act. v. 

v i)acrt- 

/6(\0 A/oNpMX- 

^4 Li/e of Pleasure (Drury Lane, 1893) 

Jack is " not the only one " and prevails upon him to take a trip 
abroad, where they witness a Battle of Flowers with brightly dressed 
people throwing bouquets at still more brightly dressed people in real 
carriages drawn by real horses. Jessie has followed them only to be 
repulsed at the Carnival Ball ; she calls on heaven to punish her faith- 
less lover and heaven replies with an earthquake. Jack marries her and 
Major Randolph, for some other sins, is apprehended by the police. 

Respect for good breeding in human beings as well as horseflesh went 
further in the Autumn Drama 1 of 1892, for then the heroine, again be- 
trayed, was glad to be made an honest woman of by the villain. The 
Prodigal Daughter, by Pettitt and Harris, was very sporting — country 
mansion with horses and hounds, Paris Grand Hotel with carriages and 
gorgeous evening dresses, Aintree with poison for the favourite, the 
Grand National with a dozen thoroughbreds as well as water-jump, 

1 So called because melodramas at Drury Lane usually ran from the beginning 
of September, when the London season opened, to the time when the theatre 
was needed for Christmas pantomime. 


yelling crowds, touts, bookies, jockeys and welchers. There was a 
return to the old manner in 1893 with A Life Of Pleasure by Sir Augus- 
tus Harris — it was a City, not a stage, knighthood — and Pettitt. The 
plot began in Boucicault's Ireland and went by way of the Empire 
promenade, where Arthur Dacre had champagne flung in his face by 
Mrs. Bernard Beere, to a chasm in Burma where Henry Neville 
fetched reinforcements with quick-firing guns. 

In 1894 Old Drury engaged two new authors. The Derby Winner 
was by Sir Augustus Harris, Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton — Pet- 
titt and Meritt were dead and the Grecian style was no more. " Draw- 
ing-room drama " became an understatement when applied to Harris's 
ancestral halls, where duchesses provided comic relief. Both Raleigh 
and Hamilton were the sons of soldiers, both had been actors before 
they wrote for the stage, both had their place in a new kind of com- 
munity which came under the peculiar heading of " sporting and 
dramatic ". What had the Turf in common with the stage? " Back- 
ing a show ", of course, made money circulate even faster than backing 
horses and to make money circulate was a good thing. Then again 
the new kind of chorus girl, as glamorous off the stage as on, did add 
grace and even loveliness to four-in-hands, pride of the ever-increasing 
jam of traffic on Epsom roads. Sport and drama brought together by 
Boucicault in The Flying Squad had stayed together. " Real horses ", 
as long as they were racehorses, saved Drury Lane from being frowsty. 
The " Grand National Theatre " had to choose not between comedy 
and tragedy but between flat-racing and steeple-chasing. Hence- 
forward the struggle between right and wrong was usually over a 
horse, although there were still sins in society — very good sins in very 
good society. 

The Derby Winner even went to the length of using titles borne by 
real people. Major Mostyn's efforts to cause an estrangement between 
Lord and Lady X. are, in such elegant surroundings where even ser- 
vants behave like real servants without a line of exposition or soliloquy 
between them, somewhat in the nature of flattery carried to the extreme 
where it becomes offensive. But the trend of the plot excites an uneasy 
feeling that the devil in Mostyn takes less thought for her ladyship than 
for the form shown by Clipstone. All his sexual activities are binocu- 
lar. By first seducing the trainer's daughter and then blaming Lord X. 
he uses the poor girl's lapse from virtue as an argument to persuade 
both her father and the jockey not to let Clipstone win the Derby. 
His most dangerous ally is Vivien, dark lady of old days in Rawalpindi. 
She comes as a guest. When asked to leave she cries, " Should you 
ever hear that another wretched woman has sought that one refuge of 


the desperate — death, remember that it was you who shut the door of 
repentance in her face." But instead of dying she appears at the 
Regimental Ball, where Lady X. asks the Colonel to have her carriage 
called : " When I accepted your invitation, and that of the officers of 
the 43rd Hussars, I did not expect to be insulted by the presence of my 
husband's mistress ". Scenes in a sanatorium bring Lord and Lady X. 
together again over the sick-bed of their child, and when Mostyn drugs 
the jockey, his own jockey changes his colours to ride for Lord and 
Lady X. and win. 

Military glory came back in 1895, but though the Matabele War was 
the subject of Cheer, Boys, Cheer by Harris, Raleigh and Hamilton, 
scenes at polo, Rotten Row, Lady Hilyard's drawing-room, a Johannes- 
burg hotel, and the grand staircase at Chepstow House were " remark- 
able for their beauty and extraordinary wealth of accessories ". After 
Harris's death, Arthur Collins, his stage-manager, took control. 
Respectability was upheld. In The White Heather by Raleigh and 
Hamilton, the heroine was low-born because her father was nothing 
better than a prosperous stockbroker. Lord Angus — played by 
Neville, who was now, at sixty years of age, too handsome to be a hero 
— weds her at sea, then repudiates her and her child. The sole record 
of the marriage is in the log-book of his yacht, the " White Heather ", 
now gone to the bottom. While he is searching for it in diver's out- 
fit, the poor ne'er-do-well, Dick, arrives on the spot, also as a diver, 
and they clutch each other's wind-pipes in a fight so deadly that the 
mere poster of it drew full audiences with faces as white and drawn as 
the disapproving open mouths of the deep-sea fish. 

23 The Manx Shakespeare 

The Bondman 

IN EVERY drama of a sport that excited the thrill of uncertainty the 
result of the race was — barring mishaps — certain from the start. The 
Turf that was shown on the stage was nothing more than a toy, and yet 
it filled the public's heart with pleasure and pride. The racehorse was 
the emblem of the age. The number of his appearances at Drury Lane, 
the number of authors who told the same story about him, and the 
number of different plays so presented to the public without any special 
protest against the blatant monotony of it all, amount to as much. 
Diversions such as the problem play may have been tolerated for the 
sake of variety, but the mainstay of" sporting and dramatic " was the 
Favourite or the Dark Horse. 

History makes this so clear that it may seem hard to " place " Hall 
Caine. Yet he is as essential to the panorama of those times as the 
Derby on the stage and off. He fulfilled his destiny as the Manx 
Shakespeare, with some fellow-feeling for Iceland and Sicily as well, 
by dramatizing and re-dramatizing his novels until half-a-dozen of 
them were more to the forefront of affairs than Hamlet. He had the 
appeal in Edward VII's worldly London of an evangelist. People who 
were rather vain of what they believed to be their artificiality, admired 
him for his " sincerity ". When he returned in 1897 to the manner 
of sex-and-salvation the notion might have seemed belated. His novel, 
11 The Christian ", could have shown Ibsen how to make Brand pay. 
Instead of a preacher with a wife and child, here was a saintly parson 
who was calling sinners to repentance and falling in love with a pretty 
girl. Here also was an author who coped with the Man, the Woman 
and the Universe. Here was unblushing belief in the existence of 
dividend-paying innocence winch Thomas Hardy had destroyed. 

No one living in that world could be unaware of the peculiarity of 
Edwardian taste. The public which no longer wanted feuilletons by 
Thomas Hardy in their illustrated weeklies, knew that he was a great 
novelist. The same public which had no illusions about the powerful 
novels of Caine, yet read them avidly whether brand-new at 75. 6d. (he 


XXXVI Drury Lane, 1907 : Lady Marion Beaumont (Constance Collier) escapes having drugged 
Morris, the pawnbroker (Oscar Adye) and rescued the incriminating box 


0^ r /4 




LXXXVII As the troopship " Beachy Head " founders the soldiers salute 

■•'4 " 

LXXXVIII Drury Lane, 191 1 : The earthquake 

LXXXIX Brenda Carlyon (Evelyn D'Alroy) leads in the Derby winner 


claimed to have led the revolt against the three-volume novel at 3 15. 6d.) 
or in paper backs at sixpence. What was this stuff that people ate out 
of his hand ? Life in it was up to date and almost every-day , and in 
this persuasive form it insisted more strongly than ever before on that 
dearest of all human illusions — the mystic and supernatural power of 
sexual love which provides for every human being one completely 
satisfying mate, and one only. In theory it was conducive to the 
stability of Holy Matrimony. In practice it kept the Divorce Courts 
busy, since not even the oldest idyll in the land maintained that the true 
love and the spouse were necessarily one and the same thing. In the 
wildest throes of his Sinaitic solemnity our author might be temporarily 
inclined to agree with that, but only in the wildest. 

Whatever his secret, Hall Caine's success was part of the reign of 
Edward VII. His play of The Christian had had its first existence in 
London and New York in 1898, but that was experimental. Caine's 
climacteric began in 1901 with his novel of " The Eternal City ", 
which was dramatized in London and in New York the next year. 
This done, he annexed Iceland for the purposes of" The Prodigal Son ", 
published in 1904. Cold-blooded history might assess the number of 
copies sold and make comparison for better or worse with other best- 
sellers. But statistics are rule-of-thumb. There is no way to measure 
what are vulgarly known as heart-throbs. They exceeded all speed 
limits over this tale of a famous author of the Northland who loves 
Thora in life too little (preferring her sister who becomes a famous 
actress) and loves her in death too well. Plays have their history told 
in criticism which describes their impact on the public. Novels leave 
no other record of this than their sales. The mood of their readers, a 
passing event like acting and applause, is soon completely forgotten. 
But here perhaps is an exception, and even if young and impressionable 
minds did not recall how that book was talked about there is still the 
drawing-room ballad of " Speak, speak, speak to me, Thora " — a cry 
from the Icelander who regards her grave as his only landmark when 
men have forgotten his name — to perpetuate the excitement. The 
Prodigal Son was the Autumn Drama at Drury Lane in 1905 and it was 
a success no matter how the peculiar thrill of the novel was missed. 

To score again on the same boards Hall Caine turned his novel of 
1 890 into Drury Lane's Autumn Drama of The Bondman in 1906. This 
time it is a girl who loves two half-brothers, one a Manxman in Sicily 
and the other a Sicilian in Man. Jason's mother was not married. 
Greeba, 1 the heroine, asks whether she had been wronged by his father, 

1 The impact of this heroine on real life has yet to be measured. Not only was 
Caine's Manx castle named after her but many a hotel and boarding house as well. 


upon which Jason, in a rage, answers, " Yes, God curse him ! He was 
a low-born man and she was the daughter of the Governor." The 
relentless march of progress has left the bad baronet and the village 
Queen of the May a long way behind. 

The hold of this author over his public is shown in the number of 
new plays he now made with old material. Bear in mind that it was a 
time when the fortunes of all other playwrights were made or marred 
by " first nights " : the verdict at the opening performance was final, 
for no plays had a second chance — save those written by Hall Caine. 
The Christian, re- written, had a long run at the Lyceum in 1907, when 
intellectual dramatists were being admired. In a volume which bears 
on its cover the words, " Lyceum Edition. The Christian Play ", the 
author says, " I have reluctantly consented to the publication of the 
drama on condition that it shall be sold at the lowest price at which it 
can be produced ". His introduction also declares that he has suffered 
for The Christian, " perhaps justly, certainly severely ". Copies of 
this were distributed to the audience at the 175th performance of the 
revival, marking " the 3,221st performance in England ". 

After the preface comes " Author's Note ", dealing in resounding 
prose with " the gravest problem that is on the forehead of the time to 
come ". This thing of the future is " the physical relation of woman 
to man ". The style keeps going in this strain until any audience ought 
to be trembling with anticipatory excitement, but it seems to have no 
effect on the play. John Storm, the saintly parson, and Glory Quayle, 
the pretty girl, leave Man for London, he to rescue fallen women and 
she to star in musical comedy. In Act IV John shouts wildly, " God 
sent me to kill you, Glory ", then he kisses her instead, and the Watch- 
man outside calls, " All's well ". 

Why Mrs. Warren s Profession should have been banned while 
Caine's " sensation " on the same subject was permitted, can be 
explained by the prevailing opinion that sentimental treatment justified 
anything — adultery, for example, was warmly recommended in many 
a charming ballad sung by prim young women in suburban drawing- 
rooms, under the name of love. Shaw did not invoke the sacred word, 
but Caine did. Matheson Lang, who endowed John Storm with 
good looks of a most taking boyishness, describes the result in his 
autobiography, " Mr. Wu Looks Back ". The play that had been 
regarded as a stop-gap went like wildfire. " Hours before the doors 
were opened, on a bright, warm, summer evening, a seething mass of 
thousands of people was milling around the theatre, clamouring for 
admittance to see the first performance of a revival of this old play." 
That was in the August of 1907. In the October Matheson Lang left 


the Lyceum for a while in order to play Dick Dudgeon at the Savoy in 
The Devil's Disciple, the play Shaw labels " a melodrama " because 
while it takes Ibsen's view of virtue as a precious thing to be dearly paid 
for, there is a last-minute reprieve for its falsely-convicted, self- 
sacrificing hero. 

In Greeba Castle, Isle of Man, the wealthiest author of his day went 
on making fresh fortunes out of old plays and receiving offers as large 
as kings' ransoms for new novels. In 1909, chapters of " The White 
Prophet in a monthly magazine caused a stir because they were 
thought likely to cause trouble in Egypt. His day was passing, though 
" The Woman Thou Gavest Me " stuck as staunchly as ever to the 
formula of salvation and sex. Still his swan song must be The Eternal 
Question (new version of The Eternal City), played at the Garrick in 
19 10 and printed for private circulation with an author's note. His 
first statement is that The Eternal Question owes nothing to The Eternal 
City " except the material which that play owed to the novel of the 
same name " — he is using the same story, with the same scenes and the 
same characters, to present two problems of life. He will " indicate 
the recent trend of the socialist movement, the forces it has had to meet, 
and the risks it has to run ". He will also deal with the Woman 
Question in its " most intimate aspect — the aspect which concerns the 
sexual relations of man and woman ". In the play, Roma, Baron 
Bonelli's mistress, is to snare Rossi, the socialist, but they fall in love ; 
and when Bonelli is accidentally killed they gladly decide to face 
execution together after they have discussed the question of her past. 
Since this ran for less than a month, the author's proud record of being 
the greatest re-dramatizer known to history was rather tarnished that 
summer of 19 10. In a fit of what looks uncommonly like bravado he 
dug up the ancient Ben-My-Chree, turned it into The Bishop's Son, tried 
it on holiday-makers at the Grand Theatre, Douglas, and then brought 
it to replace The Eternal Question at the Garrick. It ran a week. 

The real racehorse won. After The Bondman Drury Lane made 
some attempt at the powerful style with The Sins Of Society and The 
Marriages Of May fair. Whatever their success these could not compete 
with The Whip by Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton, the autumn 
drama of 1909 which became (Christmas pantomime intervening) the 
spring drama of 19 10. " All third-class passengers ", said the villainess 
as she plotted a train smash in order to destroy the dark horse, and such 
devilry concealed the awkward fact that morality had become more 
muddled than ever before. The hero pleaded that he had taken to 
a life of gambling because he had " never known a mother's love " ; 
when the heroine brought him back to innocence he proved his 



sincerity by backing the dark horse for more than he was worth. Its 
victory, after surviving the train smash, represented virtue triumphant 
as understood by the twentieth century at its opulent dawn. 

Sporting life was again the subject at Drury Lane in the September 
of 191 1 when Raleigh and Hamilton named The Hope after the horse 
they cast as Derby Winner. As late as 1923 the tradition was main- 
tained at Drury Lane in Good Luck by Seymour Hicks and Ian Hay. 
Eleventh Hour was the horse whose owner became a convict, escaped 
from prison during a fire, and rescued the heroine from the villain's 
yacht ; this gave rise to a report of his death which would have pre- 
vented Eleventh Hour from running had not his owner reached the 
course and proved both his existence and his innocence in time. The 
real horse gave place to the real camel in The Garden Of Allah with a 
sand-storm so real that the electric fans of the desert coated playgoers 
in the front row with bran. 

By this time Hall Caine had become a somewhat wistful wraith 
when he haunted the West End, even though he had been created a 
Knight of the Order of the British Empire in 1918. He continued to 
write, almost up to his death in 193 1, and occasionally, though rarely, 
admiring references are still made to his books. 

XC Between Two Women (Tcrriss, Rothcrhithc, 1902) : " I'll make a bargain — my son's life for yours 


XCI The Soldier's Wedding (Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1906) : " After twelve years 


>., >S 



XCII Aldwych, 1909 : Bess (Violet Englefield), the bad girl, allows herself to be abducted by the villain 
in place of Gladys (Maud Linden) who beats a hasty retreat 



XCIII Bess charged at Bow Street : " Then I hope Heaven will punish you by making me your wife " 

24 Melvillian Melodrama 

The Worst Woman In London 

" THERE is only one Shakespeare and there is only one Melville " — 
the words of Walter, eldest of three brothers — was once a very familiar 
battle-cry. That " once " was not long ago, but what happened then 
now seems remote. Outward changes are not the chief cause of this. 
What makes life look, taste, feel and smell so different is the disturbance 
within. The public is in an altogether new frame of mind. In the 
heyday of the Melvilles moral horror of the theatre still existed — part 
of the dread of existence in general. There were thousands of things 
that " people didn't talk about " — aspects of life, real or imaginary, 
which had to be shunned. Anybody who did take as much as a peep 
at them was almost sure to fall over decency's brink into a yawning 
moral abyss. Millions believed in the existence of such a pit, though 
no one knew precisely what it was. 

Fantastic though the myth may seem now, it was fearful enough to 
be dramatized. That was the Melvilles' great discovery. They had 
the courage to talk about the things people did not talk about. They 
could write about that moral abyss as familiarly and intimately as 
Dante wrote about the domestic economy of the Inferno. With the 
power of righteousness behind them, for virtue triumphant was ever 
their theme, they boldly exhibited life's seamy side on the stage. 
Their popularity, which was enormous, largely sprang from the 
public's readiness to be shocked. 

Hoardings advertised that the Melvilles' dramas would be daring. 
They brought colour to our cheeks as well as to our streets. There was 
never anything improper about them, but they alarmed those who dis- 
approved of " the sensational ". The titles were alarming in them- 
selves even without the more than life-size figures that illustrated them. 
There were never such posters before or since. Usually an accusing 
finger created a centre of interest in a colour-scheme of yellow and 
red surrounding one or two arresting female figures. What an age the 
Edwardian was for femininity ! Scores of music-hall songs praised 
* the girls ". Musical comedies usually had " girl " in the title. 
Melodrama exploited the contrast between good girls and bad. 



Champions of this kind of drama should be given their due. Com- 
pliments were paid the Melvilles from time to time and their plays 
usually had an enthusiastic, though occasionally patronizing, Press. 
But the brothers were far too modest to covet any such compliment. 
Their plays were never printed and the typescripts were only taken out 
of the stair-less eyrie under the Lyceum's roof where they were stored, 
when the possibility of a fresh stage production was being discussed. 
Frederick Melville was friendly when a critic by his side in a supper- 
room pew asked (over tankards) for a chance to read them, but firm. 
He would not admit for a second that they were worth reading. " We 
are ", he said, " a cheap theatrical family." When corrected with 
" fine old theatrical family ", he insisted on " cheap " — insisted. 

All who are so named on very old playbills must not be brought into 
the story, for the Lyceum's managers began their stage history with 
George Melville, a touring actor-manager who lived from 1824 to 
1898. Andrew Melville, born in 1853, specialized in melodrama and 
billed himself with lordly modesty as plain " Em ". All his six children 
became players as part of their theatrical training. Walter (born 
London, 1875) and Frederick (born Swansea, 1876) began in infancy. 
When their parents settled down at Birmingham in 1889 at the Grand 
Theatre and the Queen's, the sons learnt all there was to learn about 
business management as office-boys. Andrew Melville, the third son, 
was then five years old. Not until they had acted melodrama, stage- 
managed melodrama, produced melodrama and made melodrama pay, 
did any of them write melodrama. They began by re- writing it, for 
the conditions under which they worked resembled the conditions 
under which Shakespeare worked. Though " copyright " had become 
a word with a meaning, there were still bundles of melodramas that had 
no owners because each represented such a succession of literary thefts 
that the original author had been lost sight of. Driven From Home, 
played at the Grecian in 1871 as the work of G. H. MacDermott, was 
quite a short play. Who wrote a four-act drama of a similar title that 
was already popular before those young Melvilles were big enough to 
adopt it, has not been recorded. It is worth studying, since it shows 
what melodrama was like before they brought it into line with the 
age of feminism. 

Laura is driven from home by her father, Old Raybrook, for marry- 
ing the man of her choice instead of the plausible Geoffrey. When 
her husband is killed while poaching, she finds her way to the Thames 
Embankment, and as she sinks exhausted with her child in the snow, 
the villain kicks her. Willie, the village idiot she once befriended, 
helps her to the gates of the Foundling Hospital. Raybrook, arm-in- 



Ignoring Frederick Melville 

arm with Geoffrey, passes her by and gets into a hansom just before she 
dies. In Act II there is " business " with a real pudding — as necessary 
to the comic scenes in those days as real cabs were to the dramatic. 
The actress who has died as Laura now appears as her son, little Walter. 
Muttering, " Only a life — that boy's life between me and my uncle's 
fortune ", Geoffrey decides on murder and hires an accomplice at a 
saw-mill. There the child is stunned, placed on the slide that carries 
logs to the circular-saw (in the manner of Augustin Daly's drama) and 
is about to be cut up when the half-wit saves him. In the graveyard of 
Chingford Old Church by night (" green limes ") Laura's repentant 
father comes to hear the organ music, the impatient villain comes to do 
him in, and Walter, with the half-wit, comes to the rescue. " Enter 
Everybody " to see justice done. 

There was an eager hunt for novel last-minute rescues. One hero 
was fastened at the bottom of a Thames lock while water trickled 
through the gates that had been left ajar. Another was placed, bound 
hand and foot, on the anvil of a Nasmyth hammer while the villain 
started the machinery amid cries from the Surrey's gallery of " Dirty 
dog " and oaths unprintable. You can guess what " Great Steam-Roller 
Sensation " in the programmes of Is Life Worth Living? meant. 
These were crime plays. There came a time when the public thought 
crime too tame. It felt the attraction of repulsion for the moral abyss. 
It wanted vice. 

When their father, who was more inclined to stage crime, died in 
1896, the Melvilles gave the public what it wanted in Dangerous 


Women, by F. A. Scudamore, first played at the Brixton in 1898. This 
went the whole hog with abduction and white-slave traffic in a plot 
elaborate enough for a three-volume novel. There is a casino run by 
a vampire who lures innocent girls into a strong-room where they are 
starved into surrender. The juvenile (as the heroine must be called 
when Melvillian drama is discussed) holds out until rescued by the 
comedian who takes her place and indulges in some horseplay at the 
expense of the semi-comic villain. After many other adventures she 
is recaptured and drugged by the dangerous women, who carry her 
into a crypt, dress her in the robes of a corpse and shut her in the coffin 
alive. She is released by a mad scientist, intent on restoring the dead to 
life, only to find herself in his private asylum. Meanwhile her rich 
father, paralysed through grief, is securely under the dangerous 
women's thumbs, so that the author has to make a violent effort to 
effect a happy ending. Scudamore originated a species with this play. 
Shakespeare went in for dangerous men, the Melvilles for dangerous 
women. In the staging of nerve-racking spectacles the brothers always 
thought in terms of a leading lady, sometimes good-looking but always 
of powerful physique. 

While Andrew made the Theatre Royal, Brighton, his headquarters, 
Walter and Frederick operated at the Terriss in Rotherhithe and the 
Standard in Hoxton. It was at the Standard in 1899 that Walter Mel- 
ville brought out his first melodrama, the most remarkable piece of its 
kind. He chose the challenging title of The Worst Woman In London, 
and instead of undergoing a nervous collapse at the thought of trying 
to live up to it, constructed character and story which justified it up 
to the hilt and down to the dregs. 

Coincidences are masterfully handled. Years ago Jack Felton was 
driven to murder by Francis 1 Vere, siren of the title, in Paris. Now he 
is engaged to his employer's daughter, Ruth Milford, whose French 
governess is Francis Vere herself. Consequently he is easily black- 
mailed into confessing to the burglary actually committed by her 
accomplice, Lyle. That spares him nothing, for Ruth is told of the 
murder while the lights go down and the spotlights dwindle to " pin 
focus " on Francis's face, distorted with laughter. The scene changes 
to a full set of Hyde Park, with crowds, attendants, police, soldiers, a 
nursemaid and a pram. Old Milford, victim to the Worst Woman's 
allure, arrives with her in a real " Victoria carriage, horse and coach- 
man ". They surprise Ruth and Jack together, and call the police to 
arrest him for the murder of one, Philip Armstrong, who suddenly 
appears in very good health and they drive away. 
1 Spelt thus in original MS. 

fj «-l »-l 

•I « s 

2 ° S 

in «■> g 

£ ^ P 



To match this drama of the real carriage, the next scene provides 
comic relief with the real steak-pudding. Old Milford quarrels with 
Francis. She shoots him in bed, and when Armstrong rushes in with 
intent to strangle her, he is arrested for the murder. But Ruth stands 
between her and the Milford millions. The tenement where the 
lovers, now performing in a circus, have begun their married life, is 
secretly visited, drenched with oil and fired. Francis, though dis- 
guised as a man-about-town, is seized by Ruth, who cries, " We shall 
die together ". One fires a revolver ; the other draws a knife until her 
hand is bitten to force her to drop it. Plates are thrown. 

Together the two women roll over and over, and each, as she comes 
uppermost, bangs the other's head repeatedly on the floor. When 
they regain their feet, Francis raises a chair to strike but is pushed back 
against the table, which goes over, lamp and all. Ruth falls : she is 
dragged by the hair (or rather by a concealed rope connected with a 
leather band round her waist) right across the room and flung into the 
corner while the Worst Woman escapes to the roofs, where firemen 
arrive too late to reach the tenement. But Ruth escapes by performing 
her tight-rope act on the telegraph wires. The mob catches Francis. 
To save herself she takes off her wig and pulls down her hair over her 
shirt-front. "What — a woman?" people shout. "Yes," Jack 
replies, " The Worst Woman in London." 

With the ending of the nineteenth century, the days of melodrama 
were numbered, no doubt, but there was plenty of life in the old dog 
yet. The stalls might scoff but the gallery, drawn from the old trans- 
pontine audiences of " the Surrey side ", still applauded every moral 



(Terriss, Rotherhithe, 1904) 

sentiment and hissed the villain in all sincerity. The Worst Woman In 
London encountered this divided opinion when revived at the Adelphi 
in 1903. Much to the annoyance of pit and gallery, the stalls sauntered 
in late — parties of them, finely dressed, intent on mockery — just to see 
old Milford's last moments when he burnt the Will in Francis's favour 
before going to sleep. 

Far from resenting laughter or wishing to prevent it by altering his 
play, Walter Melville provided for it in the prompt-copy with these 
stage directions : " The laugh comes when he first appears, when he 
turns over the sheets, and when he gets into bed. He is in his night- 
shirt and has bare feet." Olga Audre (formerly Audrey) entered as 
the murderess, in her nightdress, but she was not mocked. The Worst 
Woman in London was then a fine upstanding well-built girl in her 
twenties and her bearing — unlike anything today when the young stay 
young — was adult and imperious. You feared for her victims and 
were glad when they escaped on the stage. She was an altogether 
different person in real life, a young, tender-hearted mother, and she 
liked a family holiday by the sea. In this simple-hearted manner she 
was spending a summer when her child was caught by the tide. Olga 
Audre died in a desperate attempt to rescue her. 

The Terriss, Rotherhithe, was where several Melville dramas first 
saw the limelight. Here Frederick Melville, his brother's only rival, 
brought out Between Two Women in the autumn of 1902. Its peculiar- 
ity is a vampire with a strong streak of virtue in her — love for her long- 
lost blind boy : when he is restored to her, she helps the hero to rescue 
the heroine from the haunted tower where she is imprisoned with a 


homicidal lunatic. Walter Melville's A GirVs Cross Roads, after opening 
at the Standard two or three months before, was brought to Terriss's 
for the Christmas of 1903. This is the drama of a drunken wife — 
lightened by the antics of a comic character in a bottle-smashing scene — 
and a faithful juvenile who turns flower-seller until death after death at 
last permits the course of true love to run smooth. 

Frederick Melville's masterpiece, which opened at the Terriss in the 
November of 1904, was The Ugliest Woman On Earth. She is a 
mysterious veiled figure, assistant of a doctor engaged in perilous re- 
search, who attracts Jack Merriman on a voyage home from Naples, 
where he escaped from a charge of murder. Knowing that illness has 
destroyed her beauty (though it may, says the doctor, be restored by 
another illness), she hides her love for him until the villains of the piece 
throw lime in his eyes and he is blind. They marry. His sight is 
restored. Illness restores her beauty. 

Melodrama-according-to-the-Melvilles was in demand all over the 
country. Bert Hammond, who managed the Lyceum, directed their 
extensive touring enterprises. Rehearsals were held in the Standard. 
In various parts of this theatre twenty-five companies would be master- 
ing at the same time twenty-five different plays. Corridors, bars, 
foyer and auditorium would all be put to this use, while the stage 
would be partitioned off by canvas walls into a number of separate 
stages. What the provincial public wanted was either The Girl 
Who . . . (drama) or The Girl From . . . (musical comedy), and the lists 
of what was then on tour, in the theatrical journals, proved that the 
Melvilles had a bigger following than George Edwardes. 

Each of the brothers was now a hardened playwright. Walter 
brought out The Girl Who Wrecked His Home at the Standard in 1907. 
He knew what kind of title was liked and chose this even though it did 
not fit the tale of a wife lured from home and luckily forgiven years 
after by a husband promoted to the peerage. Walter was also the 
author of The Beggar Girl's Wedding at the Elephant and Castle in 1908. 
In this Jack Cunningham, suddenly realizing he must marry at once or 
lose a fortune, takes Bess from the Embankment and marries her. Both 
are kidnapped and caged in the private asylum of a mad doctor : all 
ends well. Frederick was the author of The Bad Girl Of The Family, 
at the Elephant and Castle in the October of 1909, followed by a 
Christmas season at the Aldwych. This is a particularly good specimen 
of their workmanship. Bess, seduced by Harry, her employer's son, 
goes to " Lord Erskine's " with a dress for Gladys Erskine, who loves a 
sailor, Dick Marsh. Being on the brink of financial ruin, Lord Erskine 
is forcing his daughter to marry Harry. The wedding is arranged, but 


by means of a heavy veil Bess takes the bride's place at the altar. On 
the night of Dick's arrival there is a murder for which he is tried and 
found guilty. He escapes from Dartmoor in the snow just in time to 
rescue his wife on Christmas Eve, to see Harry arrested while his own 
innocence is proved, and to witness the death of his faithful burglar 
friend while carols are being sung " off". 

The Melvilles' conquest of London was swift. In 1909 they took 
over the Lyceum and in 191 1 they built the Princes, Shaftesbury 
Avenue, and opened it with a new version of The Three Musketeers by 
themselves. They had now turned from real life to romance. At the 
Lyceum in 1912 Frederick Melville's The Monk And The Woman (end- 
ing in an earthquake which kills all except the monk, his aristocrat wife, 
and other monks who wish him well) was a costume drama. Ivanhoe, 
in 191 3, was a costly and gorgeous spectacle with twenty horses and a 
castle which swung right across the stage to show the attackers' progress 
from outside to inside. " With that ", said Mr. Hammond, " we did 
not take our salt." But romance in modern form prospered in 1917, 
when Walter Howard's Seven Days 1 Leave showed Annie Saker as a 
heroine, in bathing dress, who sank a German submarine. And when 
Albert Chevalier, the Coster Laureate of the music-halls, arrived in My 
Old Dutch, the play which he and Arthur Shirley had written around 
his song : 

We bin together now for forty years 
An' it don' seem a day too much, 

there was, at small expense, a run of nearly 200 performances. All this 
belongs to the history of the Melvilles as managers rather than as 
dramatists. The Lyceum was their crowning achievement, but the 
titles they are remembered by belong to their seasons at the Terriss, 
the Standard, and the Elephant when there were only two or three 
Melvilles just as there was only one Shakespeare. 

Some mention must be made of rivalry in their own field. No 
single work of theirs equalled the popularity of A Royal Divorce, for 
which W. W. Kelly was responsible. While a manager in America 
he " discovered " Grace Hawthorne ; in London she became sole lessee 
of the Princess's, which was conducted under his management. The 
Napoleon drama that made his fortune was originally written in 
America by C. G. Collingham. Wills began to revise it. After his 
death " much of the work that he did upon it was discarded, and the 
original substituted ", according to his brother. Grace Hawthorne 
finished the task of fitting it for the stage. In 1891 it was played first 
at Sunderland, then at the New Olympic and then at the Princess's. 


On tour its profits enabled Kelly to become proprietor of Kelly's 
Theatre, Liverpool, and the Theatre Royal, Birkenhead, as well as 
lessee of the Shakespeare, Liverpool. He kept A Royal Divorce on tour 
almost until he died at the age of seventy-eight in 1933. It was more 
than a play; it was an institution. " Not to-night, Josephine ", the 
rude heckle from the gallery when Emperor bids Empress the last 
good-bye, became a catch-phrase for thirty years or more. 

Although the Conquests kept the Surrey which became a music-hall 
for a time, although the Britannia and the Standard eventually changed 
with the changing times, melodrama was never so prolific as when its 
days were numbered. Its authors turned them out by the dozen. 
Mrs. Charlotte Anne Kimberley, who died in 1939, had Was She To 
Blame ?, Her Path To Sorrow and Ruined Lives at the head of her long 
list. Walter Howard, who died in 1922, wrote Why Men Love Women 
and Her Love Against The World, also The Story Of The Rosary, which 
succeeded not only at the Princes in London but at the Manhattan 
Opera House in 19 14. When the tide did turn, yet another bid for 
fashion's favour was made by Tod Slaughter at the Elephant and Castle 
before it was pulled down. There, besides Sweeney Todd, William 
Corder and other legendary villains, he played in The Face At The 
Window, by Brooke Warren, which had started life at Blackburn and 
Salford in 1897, and proved the most enduring play in its own class. 
Le Loup leaves iron daggers in the chests of his victims until his name is 
disclosed by a corpse galvanized into momentary life by electricity. 

The seed of another melodrama sprouted in the Lyceum's box-office. 
Bram Stoker, Irving's manager, was a novelist. Most of his books are 
forgotten, but the one he published in 1897 gave vampires their most 
popular form. " Dracula " became, strictly in this sense, a classic. 
Years passed before it was adapted to the stage and then it outlived even 
The Power Of The Cross ; or, The Last Of The Vampires, which was 
brought from the provinces to the Elephant and Castle in 1907. 
Bram Stoker's story, dramatized by Hamilton Deane, was still being 
acted in London as late as 1939 — nurses in attendance and hopeful 
staggerers with strained faces outside the manager's office, putting up 
some fine performances in fond hopes of emergency brandy. 

Miniature melodramas for the music-halls ought to have a history to 
themselves. The Fighting Parson celebrated the victories of a London 
curate who knocked wife-beating husbands about. Humanity won 
applause year after year on tour because of its furniture-smashing fight 
— " £200 worth a night ", the bills advertised — and its song of" Only 
a Jew ", but still more for its heart-felt cry of, " If this is your Christian 
charity, thank God I am only a Jew ". 

25 Gentlemen Cracksmen 

Alias Jimmy Valentine 

OUT of that chaos of cold print which bears witness of what the public 
once wanted, oddities could be picked to prove anything. Evidence 
could thus be found to show how the wishful thinking of mankind 
moves round and round without progressing — the easiest theory to up- 
hold in all human affairs. Opera is cited. Directly Wagner rendered 
the old method of setting melodramas to music " obsolete ", Puccini 
made a masterpiece out of La To sea. For other libretti he went to 
Belasco, call-boy at the Metropolitan, San Francisco, who promoted 
himself to stage-manager at the age of fourteen and mastered all 
theatrical trades by as close a familiarity as Irving's with old plays 
that would not die. On a story by John Luther Long, Belasco based 
Madame Butterfly for the Herald Square Theatre in 1900. It was seen in 
London at the Duke of York's by Puccini and it returned to New York 
as his opera in 1906. Belasco's The Girl Of The Golden West at the 
Belasco Theatre, Pittsburg, Pa., became Puccini's opera at the Metro- 
politan Opera House in 1910 with Caruso and Destinn in the principal 
roles and Toscanini conducting. 

Belasco with John Luther Long brought out the drama of Old 
Japan called The Darling Of The Gods at the National, Washington, 
in 1902. It was presented by Tree in London the next year at His 
Majesty's (where Cardinal Wolsey, Benedick, Shylock and Malvolio 
mingled on equal terms with Mephistopheles, Fagin, Micawber and 
Robert Macaire in the grand manner of Shakespearean melodrama). 
The sole difference between London now and Irving's London, it 
might have been thought, was the absence of Irving. But playgoers, 
no matter how sumptuously old customs of hospitality were kept up 
in the Dome of His Majesty's, knew the difference. Tree shed the 
afterglow of sunset. What genius he had, lacked significance. 

One of Tree's young men, George du Maurier's son, Gerald, had 
gauged the spirit of the reign more exactly. His manner on the stage, 
with a walk described as a slink, expressed dislike of the " theatrical " 
and was hailed as " natural " although it went much further. It made 


'IV Arsene Lupin (Duke of York's, 1909) : The Due de Chamerace (Gerald Du Maurier) escapes from 
the detective (Dennis Eadic) : " Stand back — hands up ! You know what this is — a bomb ! " 


if '1 1 


tV Alias Jimmy Valentine (Comedy, 1910) : Jimmy Valentine (Gerald Du Maurier) opens the safe 
and Kitty Lane, half suffocated, falls out 

XCVI A Royal Divorce: Josephine (Edith Cole); "Here at thy feet I throw the diadem, I may no 

wear on sufferance " 


XCVII An Englishman's Home (Wyndham's, 1909) : Geoffrey Smith the traitor (Lawrence Grossmith 
is shot through the heart by the invaders 


a cult of the casual, matched in fiction by the well-born burglar of 
E. W. Hornung's novels, " The Black Mask ", " The Amateur 
Cracksman ", " Mr. Justice Raffles " and M A Thief in the Night ". 
When Gerald du Maurier appeared as Raffles at the Comedy in 1906 
the true distinction between ancient and modern was manifest. Here 
was Claude Duval changed in nothing but outward appearance, and 
even that was not so marked, apart from the now celebrated slink, when 
du Maurier played the Due de Charmarace in Ay sine Lupin (a French 
Raffles) at the Duke of York's in 1909. Back at the Comedy the next 
year he presented an American Raffles who first appeared in O. Henry's 
story, " A Retrieved Reformation ". Jimmy Valentine frustrates all 
efforts to identify him as the cracksman who opens safes by a kind of 
Braille system of his own. At last the nobility of his nature forces him 
to betray himself. He undoes a burglar-proof door solely by means of 
his sense of touch when a child is suffocating in a strong-room. The 
feat is witnessed by the detective, who at once relinquishes his investiga- 
tions. Alexander Woolcot, who made himself historian of this play, 
told how Paul Armstrong, " a wise old artisan of the theatre ", agreed 
to dramatize O. Henry's story immediately and then vanished. When 
the management were frantic he suddenly emerged from the hotel 
where he had imprisoned himself for a week and drew the four-act play 
from his pocket. Eleven days later Alias Jimmy Valentine was staged 
at Chicago : it was O. Henry's own story, for he had been in a Texas 
prison, where he, too, had decided to start life afresh under a different 

Consequently it is from this reformation in real life that we must 
derive the epidemic of plays in which no self-respecting protagonist 
would think of approaching the first act without a neat murder or at 
least a bank robbery to his credit. It was the vogue of the highway- 
man over again. Leah Kleschna, a Tolstoian study in moral redemp- 
tion by the author of The Belle Of New York, exhibited the female of 
the species in 1905. It brought Charles Warner back to the limelight 
four years before he ended his life. Too many revivals of Drink, it was 
widely but not very reasonably believed, dejected his mind. 

The last melodrama to be the talk of the fashionable quarter of the 
town was An Englishman s Home by " A Patriot ", otherwise Major 
Guy du Maurier, at Wyndham's in 1909. " Foreign " forces have 
invaded England, and an ordinary John Citizen is forced to realize that 
war is not necessarily something happening abroad. Before the last 
of its 157 performances quidnuncs' gossip decided against anything so 
melodramatic. Then and there the belief formed that this particular 
quality existed solely in fiction and not in fact. As though to substantiate 


the theory, a " theatrical " Victorian drama was acted in the " nat- 
ural " Edwardian way, and rejoicing over the very last death of melo- 
drama broke out at Wyndham's in 191 3 to acclaim Gerald du Maurier's 
revival of Diplomacy in the new way. His company was off-hand 
where its forerunners had been tense, and in the big scenes the points 
were left unmade by the effective process of omitting forceful lines 
altogether. With all that, it was still the same play. Nothing had 
been accomplished beyond compromise — the kind of compromise 
which inspired Barrie's plays. In The Admirable Crichton he showed 
where public opinion wanted to stand. Democratic sentiments went 
as far as playgoers desired in this pretty little tale of a butler who be- 
comes king when the family is cast away on an island, and then becomes 
a butler again when they are all shipped back to England. It meant 
nothing. Neither did the " thriller", which was first a fad in book 
form. This became a theatrical fashion when Within The Law, at 
the Haymarket from 1913 to 1914, demonstrated how firearms could 
be used for personal and private purposes. 1 

The change that did possess meaning affected heroines. " All 
sensible people " denounced the Suffragette who chained herself to 
railings and cried " Votes for Women ", but all these sensible people 
had unconsciously conspired to make Edward's reign ardently feminist. 
This was the one detail, out of the many that constituted the New 
Century's much-discussed progress, which signified. Just as a new 
brand of human nature came into being with monogamy aforetime, so 
yet another new brand was being invented when the Rights of Women 
at last began to be vindicated. Not everybody was unaware of the 
change, for though newspapers could not see big events because of 
their preoccupation with smaller ones, the theatre was faithfully 
levelling its camera. Contemporary eyes noted the subject. An article 
" The New Woman on The Stage " was contributed by A Critic's 
Wife to the Lady's Realm in 1909. From full and sufficient evidence 
she infers, " The day of the ' woman of no importance ' is over — 
theatrically; the sinned against and suffering, but always exquisitely 
gowned and becomingly coiffee heroine is going the way of all the 
dodos ; the problem lady is so out of favour that even the grace and 
talent of Mrs. Patrick Campbell cannot revive our interest in her. A 
sense of humour is so much more wholesome than a sense of sin, and 
as we see from the most successful plays of the moment, may be quite 

1 It was based on a novel, the work of Marvin Dana and Esme Forest who 
were represented by no other books in the catalogues of our leading lending- 
libraries. The adaptation was by Arthur Wimperis and Frederick Fenn, musical- 
comedy librettists. Yet the run of Within The Law was among the longest 
achieved by plays other than farce or vaudeville. 


as well dressed." Plays like Somerset Maugham's Penelope and 
Barrie's What Every Woman Knows are quoted, not the works of 
Shaw, though he was now invading fashionable theatreland with 
Fanny s First Play in 191 1, Androcles And The Lion in 191 3, and Pyg- 
malion in the spring of 19 14. Compared with this intellectual awaken- 
ing the effect of the war of 1914-1918 on thought was not so great as 
we thought at the time : it checked, then accelerated the main trend, 
sometimes very oddly. In 19 14 plays dealing with venereal disease, 
notably Ghosts and Damaged Goods, were still banned as pre-eminently 
immoral. A year or two later, when performances of them were 
subsidized by the authorities, they were pre-eminently moral. And 
after the war, when " Votes for Women " was no longer a joke for the 
Widow Twankey, the very thing that had been denounced as harmful 
for women, destructive to all they held dear, inimical to their best 
interests, was bestowed upon them as a reward. 


26 Melodrama on the Screen 

Ben Hur 

FLICKERING shadows on a white sheet, formerly regarded as " last 
turn " in music-halls or side-shows in booths at fairs, or entertainments 
for vacant dates between jumble sale and flower show at village halls, 
at last established their dignity by taking over Drury Lane. With or 
without prestige " the pictures " had won the favour of the public and 
were liked wholeheartedly without discrimination. The new medium 
had a magic of its own. No matter how old the story acted before the 
camera it became up to date when it became a " movie ". What was 
stale on the stage was fresh on the screen. Consequently the invention 
that looked like progress put back the clock : twentieth-century means 
served nineteenth-century ends. " Ostler Joe ", deplorable doggerel 
by G. R. Sims which had been pirated throughout America, provided 
a story for one of the first films and set a standard of tearfulness for many 
others. The rich villain, the erring wife, the forgiving husband, could 
never sin, repent, die and be noble too often. 

There were other subjects, and these, by chance, often reproduced 
effects popular in chap-books ioo years earlier. The persecuted 
heroine would elope, her foot would slip on a stepping-stone, the hero 
would help her to the bank and there, half a minute later, he would 
be planting a simple wooden cross on a little mound. Another story 
ended with an erring wife setting the soles of her shoes on the sands, 
whereupon the sea (tinted celluloid being used in honour of tragedy) 
suffused itself pink to denote expiatory suicide. And in the middle of 
some stirring story a heroine would be irrelevantly shown weeping 
by her mother's grave. The vast public who attended the flicks en- 
joyed no matter what they saw in the very same way that they enjoyed 
no matter what they heard while playing early gramophone records. 
The first effect of mechanical progress is usually to paralyse the powers 
of thought in the same way that the first means of rapid travel are 
usually employed to carry passengers round in a small circle. 

The next development of celluloid melodrama was peril in regular 
instalments. Every week Pearl White escaped from one danger only 



XCVIII The Perils of Pauline, shown everywhere, 1914 

XCIX Intolerance, shown Drury Lane, 1916 

CI East Lyiuie (shown 1930) : L. to R. Flora Sheffield, David Torrence, Conrad Nagel, Ann Harding, 

Cecilia Loftus 


to be drawn into another, at which point the adventure ended : the 
next week she escaped from the new danger only to become embroiled 
in" yet more. For this purpose all the old sensation scenes of the stage 
renewed their mighty youth for the screen. There was a difference. 
The oncoming express approached considerably faster on the screen 
than the property train, and the victim was rescued x considerably 
faster, according to the rate at which the film was run, than anybody 
could be rescued in reality ; the heroine lay on the track until the very 
last moment, when " cutting " (or " montage " as it was later called to 
show that it did not mean " shortening ") was invented. One 
glimpse of heroine, one glimpse of express, one more glimpse of 
heroine, one more glimpse of express — it took the public's eyes ten 
years to see that two separate sequences were merely being club- 
sandwiched. Jane Shore, made in England, was the first super-film. 
Tearfulness still meant more than thrills. 

How fast spectators would educate themselves was not a very press- 
ing problem. They believed everything the sub-titles told them. 
Without these the vision of a young woman offering grapes to a re- 
cumbent middle-aged gentleman draped in white might suggest 
kindliness towards the sick uncle. But after the words " Night of 
wild debauchery in Pagan Rome ", grapes signified things unimagin- 
able and continued to do so; in fact the word " pagan " has never 
recovered from its link with those emblematical grapes. Public 
readiness to change sympathy's conventional gift to invalids into 
sensuality's bribe to the self-indulgent showed how easily the new 
generation of showmen could conquer the mind by appealing to the 
eye. According to the unco' guid, that appeal was too strong. It was 
inflammatory, inciting to passion, to vice, to crime, to bloodshed, to 
the stealing from orchards of green apples. The play-acting kiss, the 
make-believe embrace, moved some to amorousness, many more to 
fury. It was the old fury burning in the same breasts, for minds 
formed, settled, prejudiced and biased before 1880 still ordered life. 

Realizing this power of the old world over the new, the films 
decided on a policy of piety. Money was spent lavishly on entertain- 
ments that justified their existence by claiming to be historical or 
patriotic, Biblical or religious. David Wark Griffith, a screen-actor in 
Ostler Joe, silenced religious hate by appealing to national pride in the 
film he made in 19 14 of the American Civil War, The Birth Of A 
Nation. Two years later he attempted still more in Intolerance, which 

1 What the films could add to an old story was proved in 1928 by the The 
Branded Sombrero, in which Buck Jones, the cowboy, when placed senseless on 
the railway line, was saved by Silver Buck, his horse. 


was shown at Drury Lane. This bold and singular experiment was 
an attack on the enemies of the human race. It told more than one 
story concurrently. In one an ancient people obeyed a Christ-like 
ruler : in another modern law unjustly condemned falsely-accused 
innocence. Hordes of barbarians advanced on the fair city ; officers of 
the law pursued the fugitive. The camera returned to the hordes, then 
to the American heroine's efforts to save her man ; next the siege of 
Nineveh was contrasted with the trial in the police-court, and though 
virtue B.C. was overthrown, justice in 1916 was done. It was exciting. 
It was laughed at. It was remembered with respect until critics who 
saw a private view of it in 1946 praised it above the films of 1946. 

The easier way was Wilson Barrett's way. Quo Vadis? was always 
a popular subject, with the grapes of sensuality, on the screen. Old 
actors trained in the school of sex and salvation now came into their 
own. Fred Niblo was one. He proved his powers with The Three 
Musketeers and then set a landmark in the history of films with Ben Hur. 
This made plain what the screen could do and what the stage should 
never again attempt to do. In 1902 and again in 1912 Drury Lane had 
presented W. Young's dramatized version of Lew Wallace's novel. 
On this vast stage the lower deck of a trireme had exposed itself as a 
vast empty space, decorated on either side by supers, sparsely ranged at 
varying levels, with bars of wood in their hands. Make-believe had to 
exert itself to assume that these stumps represented oars, that each slave 
had the inconceivable strength needed to move such oars by holding 
the tips, that a vessel as large as the one represented could be moved by 
whatever influence their exertions had upon the water. " Noises off" 
on a darkened stage would have put much less strain upon imagination, 
but as long as the old awe of realism remained, the spectacular drama 
might be counted upon to use something tangible for the representation 
of any impossibility. 

By the time Lew Wallace's novel came to be read in Hollywood all 
that was changed, including the financial problem. A theatre had to 
pay its players every week and stars' salaries were mounting rapidly ; 
there were bill-posters, scene-shifters, railway companies and fodder for 
the chariot-teams to think of, as well as insurance premiums, and losses 
when a star fell ill. When a complete entertainment could be put into 
a can and sent by post, the whole question of expense began and ended 
with what an old trouper would regard as rehearsals. Consequently 
reckless expenditure was no longer reckless. Super-spendthrifts would 
change that opinion in time, but in 1925 Niblo had carte blanche to 
rebuild the Circus Maximus, exact in every detail as far as modern 
scholarship was able to decide, for real chariots to race at the greatest 


possible speed with the greatest possible accidents. There were 
thousands of willing slaves to row real galleys upon real sea into which 
real ships could really sink. 

That spectacle was unrivalled. Yet attempts to emulate it kept alive 
the name of de Mille. First came Henry C. de Mille, dramatist. One 
of his sons, Cecil, was educated at the H. C. de Mille Memorial School 
and lived at 2000 De Mille Drive, Los Angeles, California. He was 
first an actor, then a playwright. Deep religious feeling made him a 
power in Hollywood. After filming the Old Testament as The Ten 
Commandments, he made the New Testament the subject of The King oj 
Kings. The colossal was his foot-rule. Anything smaller put his 
reckoning out. The Godless Girl may be remembered chiefly for the 
word upon a foreground dustbin, " Trash ". His grand opportunity 
came, after talking-films had been invented, with The Sign Of The Cross. 
At this period of the world's history real lions were more easily obtained 
than real Christians, but though real asses supplied real milk for Poppea's 
real bath, the super-film could not cause hysteria of the intensity 
excited by the old play. The grapes reappeared and Charles Laughton 
as Nero with a considerably false nose sighed, " Delicious debauchery ", 
as though he had feasted on them. His remark was the most memor- 
able thing in the whole performance. Neither sex nor salvation made 
itself felt upon audiences that Hollywood labelled " sophisticated ". 

When first the camera recorded acting, the cry went up that at last 
the actor's art would not prove ephemeral. After the lapse of a very 
few years playgoers looked again at a film of Sarah Bernhardt and 
wished that it would. Films were mechanism, a mechanism that 
changed and was improved, which meant that performances before 
the camera were subjected to a decay more deadly than moth or rust. 
What exists in celluloid is often mere gesture and grimace to make the 
sceptical laugh and the judicious grieve. Memory unaided is more to 
be trusted, and memory recalls how the screen had its great actor before 
he was overwhelmed by the melodramatic formula. Jannings was 
borrowed from the German theatre to make the German film industry 
respected through the world. He did so in The Last Laugh, the sorrow 
of an old man at losing the uniform which had made him a magnificent 
presence outside the Grand Hotel. But why we remember Jannings 
chiefly is because he gave his age its Devil. 

In the German film of Faust he was distinct from any seen in any 
other Faust. The tempter in his old shape had no power over the new 
world, but who could resist this new Mephisto of the screen? Lewd 
of eye, round of face and royally paunched, Jannings was the confidence 
man or three-card trickster of the racecourse mounted into the 


firmament. First he visited the town with plague ; then offered the aged 
Faust curative powers in exchange for a day's loan of his soul. After 
performing his miracles Faust was stoned. He poured out a bowl of 
poison only to see in its shining blackness the image of his own youth. 
There were still several hours to run and he might just as well receive 
the full interest on his loan. So Mephisto jovially argues and Faust, 
convinced, mounts himself to scale Olympus' top, over mountains, 
forest and torrent to Parma, bright with bridal lamps. Faust comes to 
earth as an Eastern prince, borne on dazzling white elephants, served by 
polished black slaves ; and as the bride yields to him Mephisto exacts 
the full price of damnation through eternity. But in the end melo- 
drama triumphs. When Marguerite is at the stake Faust staggers into 
the flames, once more an aged man, though still young and handsome 
in her eyes. Together their spirits soar into the skies while a Guardian 
Angel answers the Devil's claim to his bond by saying, " Faust is saved 
by one word. That word is — LOVE." 

No truth is more definite than the truth of fiction. While you may 
question the facts in a biography you cannot doubt Dicken's word 
concerning Oliver Twist. About the lives of the heroes of history 
there is very often an air of inaccuracy, since neither their contem- 
poraries nor they themselves could always be quite certain what they 
were up to. But in a novel there is one mind to make itself up for all 
the rest, so that what is written is written. Even should the why, the 
when and the hour of the deed be in dispute, the deed itself is not to 
be denied. Directors of films changed all that as in Faust. For a time 
French pictures dealt honourably by their authors — Les Miserables was 
almost meticulously exact — but faithful films were dull and the policy 
ended. The stamp of melodrama was over all. 

When playgoers saw John Barrymore play Hamlet on the stage they 
respected him as a conscientious actor. But when they saw his shadow 
acting Don Juan on the screen they could but ask why. If a familiar 
name were wanted for a hero who goes through fire and water to win 
a blooming bride (his own bride), Crusoe, Columbus or Charlie Peace 
would be more suitable. But at climbing to fair ones' balconies ; at 
duelling, upstairs, downstairs and in my lady's chamber ; at escaping 
from a condemned cell ; at rescuing beauty from the torture chamber ; 
at leaping with his lovely prize from the tower's top ; at carrying her 
off with a squadron in pursuit ; at bowling all the troopers from their 
saddles like ninepins ; at making love or waging war, John Barry- 
more's exploits were excelled solely by Douglas Fairbanks, ever youth- 
ful though his son's appearance on the screen caused him to be labelled 
" senior ". As a pirate who was all and more that the Red Rover was 


meant to be, he would descend from crow's nest to deck by sticking his 
knife into a sail and letting his weight draw the blade down the canvas. 
Neither melodrama nor Penny Dreadful ever thought of that. Barry- 
more's Marion Lescaut was not worth considering because it was mainly 
acrobatics and swordplay. The German version aggravated the prob- 
lem. How much of Prevost's " exemple terrible de la force des pas- 
sions " can be illustrated? No one could then expect to see on the 
rigorously censored pictures his charmingly provoking idea that Manon 
is a sort of sugar-stick, bound if left lying about to be tasted by some- 
body or other. But in order to enjoy that German film you had to 
grant to the camera absolute liberty to alter as fancy pleases. Manon 
became a melodramatic heroine, very much sinned against and never 

However preposterous it may sound, Hollywood's change of heart, 
in the days before talkies, was due to the influence of Tolstoy. Resur- 
rection was exceptionally intelligent, although it caught the silent film 
at a disadvantage. Nightingales trilling while the moon rises over the 
barn, the crackling of sorrel stalks as a colt gallops from the scented 
meadow, the sound of the villagers' arguments borne along the river — 
these give life in the book to Tolstoy's arguments that no man has a 
right to own land. Similarly the convicting of Maslova through the 
impatience of judge and stupidity of jury, expresses what he thought of 
legal justice. Much was altered by Hollywood, with Count Ilya 
Tolstoy as literary adviser, but altered so intelligently that something 
of Russia's prophet survived. 

And then when films were progressing, mechanical progress again 
paralysed thought. The Singing Fool, the first film with " sound ", 
made Al Jolson the world's favourite. Later, in a prison melodrama 
on the screen, he sang to his brother convicts a sentimental ballad with a 
moral about living in harmony : 

Little birds can do it 
Why can't you ? 

which clashed in Great Britain with a music-hall comedian's song about 
the hen's ability to lay an egg : 

Can Lloyd George do it ? 
Can Baldwin do it ? 
Can Winston do it ? 
Why no ! 

After following fashion after fashion in a manner which almost 


paralleled those of nineteenth-century melodrama with a Gothic series, 
a spell of horrors, and an admirable revival of East Lynne, the talkies 
reached the standard of the movies and then passed it. The film All 
Quiet On The Western Front deserved to make history as a civilizing 
influence, though it succeeded in preaching peace only to the converted. 

27 Marriages and Murders 

Maugham to Wallace 

CONSEQUENCES had to be faced. Destroy moral fabric and 
what follows? The question, silenced by the first world war, was 
again asked when the uproar of peace subsided. There was little 
response : the public had given its mind to the mechanical marvels of 
films and talking-films. But the problem pressed. Virtue did not 
pay, virtue instead had to be paid for ; if the price were so high that we 
would rather go without, what was there instead ? In Our Betters at the 
Hudson, New York, Somerset Maugham had shown as early as 1917 
how people with the means would solve the difficulty. The Vortex, 
with which Noel Coward went from London to New York in 1925, 
drew a picture of hedonism carried still further. These were, in the 
way of playwrights, about people fairly well up in the social scale. In 
life the pursuit of pleasure affected all classes. Brainless amusements 
devised for wartime played to packed galleries and pits as well as stalls 
and boxes during years of peace, testifying, in a harmless way, to that 
same irresponsibility which flaunted itself more expensively, more 
excitingly, more exotically among sybarites of more leisure and more 
means. One playwright tried idealism. Monckton Hoffe's The 
Faithful Heart, with its skipper who would rather go back to sea than 
settle down with a rich wife because he must do " the thing you can't 
explain because you know it's right ", belonged to the period of 
demobilization. Not until Leon M. Lion read it by chance in 192 1 was 
it staged — an act of faith at a time when Barrie with all his whimsy 
could not avoid the prevailing cynicism in Mary Rose, the dearly-loved 
daughter whose return is an unmitigated nuisance until she yields to 
musical appeals from a chorus of unseen fairies. 

" Butterflies on a skull ", which became a catch-phrase for describing 
the whimsies of Barrie, might serve as a crest for the 1920s. Starving 
men marched from the workless north to London, where sympathizers, 
in the shining black jam of limousines between theatres and restaurants 
during the hour before midnight, decided ardently to leave things to the 
Labour Government. When new factories were built, good-will was 



shown by elegant debutantes who attended the opening in evening dress 
and drank champagne to the night-shift's health. It was well meant. 

The public, no matter how vaguely aware of lost principles, made a 
moral code of whatever came to hand. Sport became sacred. Tennis 
no one dared play slackly; from Wimbledon's Centre Court to six- 
penny courts in public parks all upheld its rules like ritual, while news- 
papers reported international contests with Homer's gravity. Each 
swimmer and golfer set his heart on efficiency. Character, said the 
preacher, will out. People found something they could believe how- 
ever unlike it might be to anything the New Thought had expected 
them to believe. True, the intellectual drama came to blossom now ; 
it was amazing — particularly when, at the height of Shaw's apotheosis, 
the old idea of the clerical matinee was employed upon Saint Joan so 
that dog-collars swarmed to the theatre as they had not done since The 
Sign Of The Cross. 

To fill imagination's vacuum there was the " semi-scientific " story- 
telling of Poe, available, though neglected, all these many years. 
Murder mysteries flooded the stage. Mary Roberts Rinehart, expert 
in detective stories, collaborated with Avery Hop wood, the playwright. 
The Bat, by them, nerve- wracked New York in 1920 and London in 
1922 with its " Who done it? " murders. The Cat And The Canary, 
seen by New Yorkers and Londoners in 1922, was by an American 
actor, John Willard. Critical opinion hailed the now popular tech- 
nique — the withholding of essential information from the audience until 
the last moment — as a brand-new twentieth-century novelty. None 
suspected that the novelty lay solely in the mood of the public, now 
willing at last to be stirred to no moral (or immoral) end. 

There was immediately a new fashion in heroines. The young 
woman who lived in their atmosphere of horror was never born of 
author's fancy ; she simply grew out of the public's desire to be thrilled. 
In all performances where lights were switched off suddenly while 
crooked fingers clutched at curtains, she conformed to the same model. 
She suffered. Whether there were reason for it or not she went on 
suffering. Once the author omitted to provide a reason: though 
without any cause for complaint whatsoever she appeared in the usual 
dire distress until she fainted and was carried "off" to bed without a 
word of explanation for the state she was in. Sometimes, of course, she 
had justification enough. In one play she was roasted, in another she 
came very near to the electric chair, in another she was locked in a 
cabinet on the understanding that it would fill with acid fumes to 
corrode the skin off her face. Her virtue was not endangered or even 
mentioned. Such fears troubled her slightly compared with " the 


cops ". What she signified was a general awareness, first that the 
village maiden who feared the flattery of the young squire was extinct, 
and next that the damsel whose distress had kept legend-making alive 
for centuries was so essential to a plot that playwrights could not do 
without her. 

Work which set itself a slightly higher standard was beset by the 
selfsame problem and solved it by employing the dissatisfied wife. 
Here again the tendency was to pay less and less attention to cause and 
then to omit it altogether. Sometimes a happy ending would be 
contrived by making the husband promise in future to pay less attention 
to his work and more to keeping his wife amused. In passing, it may 
be recollected that the 1920s witnessed a boom in night-clubs and made 
a cult of eccentric parties. But the happy ending was dull. The hero 
was usually the co-respondent. In him the young squire might be 
recognized, still amorous but no longer villainous because of a doubt in 
the audience's mind whether sex were immoral or not. 

For the truth about the heroine of uneasy virtue, examine plays by 
Somerset Maugham. When Our Betters reached London in 1923 the 
public was in the right mood to delight in being shocked. Maugham 
had already declared himself no upholder of conventions ; in The 
Circle the dissatisfied wife wished (in brief) to run away with the tea- 
planter after a game of tennis, and did. In the spring of 1927 the 
author carried feminism further. The heroine of The Constant Wife, 
who had a faithless husband, went into business, attracted a lover and 
declared that fidelity was merely a matter of finance ; having become 
independent she would assert the goose's right to serve herself with all 
the sauce of the gander. Other comedies besides Maugham's recalled 
in these years the spirit of the Restoration. There was no moralizing 
and more than a little wit. 

Virtue now in any shape or form was a dull subject. Even as an 
unobtrusive flavouring it rapidly vanished after a final flare up in 
Lightniri, which broke New York records with a run of three years 
from 191 8. It took its title from the elderly husband of a hotel land- 
lady; two lawyers, unable to gain his consent to their purchase of the 
property, advise his wife to get a divorce ; in court evidence discloses 
the swindlers' motive, and virtue triumphs in old age. All parts of the 
world acclaimed it before the London season in 1925 at the Shaftesbury, 
where it had a normally good run. One of the authors was Frank 
Bacon, who played the title part until he died in 1922. The other, 
Winchell Smith, once the telegraph operator in Secret Service, became 
the wealthiest of playwrights with a fortune of over £300,000. He 
had " cashed in " on the old order only just in time. 


" Moderns " were not alone in breaking with taboo. The change 
was real. The old order had gone. Play after play championed the 
" free soul " — the 1925 label for what Dumas jils had called Vhomme- 
femme and what in plain terms meant a wife with one or more lovers. 
She claimed public sympathy in Galsworthy's dramatized inquest, The 
Show, at the St. Martin's in 1925, where she suffered because her private 
life was discussed at the enquiry into her husband's death. Farce, 
comedy and dismal realism by American, French or English authors 
based elaborate superstructures on faith in woman's infidelity. In one 
the co-respondent was a dipsomaniac whose reform had been resolved 
upon by a heroine old enough to have known that if the amorous 
instinct and drink fight for possession of a man's soul, the latter nearly 
always wins. This play failed. 1 From now on most plays of the type 
did likewise. The public that had not for many years been moved by 
a heroine's distress when threatened by marriage or worse against her 
will, became equally indifferent to a heroine's distress caused simply by 
the need of such excitement. Yet the dissatisfied woman was still the 
mainspring of plays. A character called the Sheikh was invented as 
the answer to her prayer. He appeared not only in flicks and novelettes 
but also in a French adaptation of 1926 called Prince Fazil. The heroine, 
rescued from his harem, still desired her master and in the end they died 

In 1927 an era ended and by chance it coincided with the revival at the 
Lyric, Hammersmith, of George Barnwell, first played at Drury Lane 
in 173 1, to show how a man who takes to bad ways comes to a bad end. 
In the autumn of 1927 two plays by Noel Coward about uneasy virtue 
provoked excessive anger : in October Home Chat at the Duke of 
York's raised the stage co-respondent to his apotheosis, and in Novem- 
ber Sirocco at Daly's demanded sympathy for an unfaithful bride. The 
gallery, restive at the first, treated the second with an unprecedented 
display of ill-humour, and the leading lady, returning thanks with 
" This is the happiest moment of my life ", succumbed at once to a 
loud " Boo ". Pinero, well past three score years and ten, tried to 
change with the changing times, too late. His last play, A Cold June 
at the Duchess in 1932, was about a girl with three fathers and an 
impenitent mother. The moralist who had once declared himself in 
favour of an unblemished life for the male now favoured a blemished 
life for the female. He had unreformed with the loose 1920s, which 
were now as dead as the strait-laced 1880s. 

" Modern " morals ceased to be modern. The experiment had 

1 But will long be remembered for the lie with which the villain shattered 
the poor heroine's nerves : " They are saying that he is your mistress." 


failed. Would the old beliefs return? Their place was empty but 
they did not. Instead civilized humanity, in the decade that gained the 
name of " the over-optimistic 'thirties ", acted in the belief that 
decency (virtue's new name) would prevail not in spectacular triumph 
but in kindliness. Sheppey, Somerset Maugham's play of 1933, em- 
bodies this in a barber who wins a sweepstake, then resolves to lead a 
Christian life, gives all he has to feed the poor and keeps a few of them 
at home (for his wife to wait upon). It was a warning, a parable of 
civilization, but though the public had turned against vice it showed no 
interest in virtue either. It showed very little interest in anything of 
vital importance. 

" Escapist " fashions ruled now. Whereas audiences had formerly 
experienced real emotion while watching unreal spectacles, they now 
indulged unreal emotions while watching faithful representations of 
ordinary policemen tracking down ordinary criminals. " Melo- 
drama " was misapplied to such plays. They ranged from detective- 
stories and murder-mysteries to thrillers and straightforward studies of 
criminological verisimilitude. Such entertainment varied extensively. 
One strain can be traced first to Cutliffe Hyne's Captain Kettle, who 
appeared on the stage of the Adelphi in 1902, and then to Sapper's 
Bull-Dog Drummond, who appeared at Wyndham's in 1921, when 
Gerald du Maurier described the genre as " thick-ear plays ". Another 
strain showed in the thrillers of Edgar Wallace, beginning with The 
Ringer at Wyndham's in 1926, and The Squeaker at the Apollo in 1928, 
early in the murder-mystery craze. The desire to feel horror at ficti- 
tious dangers now existed without any righteous thirst for disgust at 
villainy. Wallace belonged to the imagination of his day ; prodigious 
sales in nearly every country of the world testified less to his imagina- 
tion than to his power to evoke the sensational out of the ordinary. 
He wrote what everybody was ready for — what was already in every 
mind. Imaginations exercised upon newspapers found themselves at 
home in his universe of police-courts and racecourses. 

Victories of right over wrong had nothing whatever to do with it. 
The Lyceum of the Melvilles acknowledged the new rule. In 1937, 
for one of its last plays, Wanted For Murder was chosen — it had police, 
criminal and corpse instead of villain, heroine and baby. It was 
meticulously photographic, so much so that when Mr. Hammond 
suggested some raising of the voice as the customary signal for " The 
Act ", it could not be done — not by an actor skilled in the modern 
way. This was eloquent of the end. The old world took pride, on 
the stage and off, in raising the voice. Righteous indignation required 
it. Tumult and shouting died when new ways of thinking wiped out 


righteous indignation. You no longer felt that way about the things 
you disapproved of. Villains belonged to the realms of witches and 
ogres. Psychology had changed all that — psychology made itself 
heard everywhere. " Psycho-analysis " proclaimed itself, spreading 
peace with its magic word, " complex ", which signified that evil- 
doing was not a man's fault but his misfortune. The four-ale bar knew 
all about it, and fighting stopped because everybody understood. The 
theatre lagged behind the four-ale bar in intelligence, but a beginning 
was made. The Lash, by Cyril Campion, demonstrated at the Royalty 
in 1926 how a man's character might be determined by a forgotten 
scare in childhood. Dr. Freud was unopposed ; there was no protest, 
not a vestige of the old religious wrath which had raised violent pro- 
tests in 1912 against a chemist's proposal to find a formula for life and 
so bring discredit upon the Book of Genesis. All that zeal had gone. 
Freud's arguments had set men's minds in motion. Magnify as you 
please the effects of the century's mechanical inventions, but the real 
marvel of the new world lay here. In the stillness of a world at peace 
you could almost hear the gentle whir of humanity's brains ticking 
over as though to fulfil Shaw's prophecy of " a whirlpool in pure 
intelligence ". Meanwhile democracy in its ever-multiplying cinemas 
was laughing at its discovery of two loud-mouthed, over-acted villains 
who did, while ranting into microphones over the heads of thousands 
massed beneath their balconies, raise their voices prophesying war. 

ZII The Vortex (Everyman, Hampstead, 1924) : Nicky Lancaster (Noel Coward) condemns his mother 

(Lilian Braithwaite) 


The Ringer (Wyndham's, 1926) : L. to R. Gordon Harker, Henry Forbes, Dorothy Dickson, Franklin 

Dyall, Leslie Faber 

CIV Young England (Victoria Palace, 1934) : (Top) Scoutmaster Ravenscroft has an argument with 
Jabez Hawk, Junior, a true son of his father, and also a scout. (Middle) The Grand Finale. (Bottom) 

Walter Reynolds, author of the play, in his box 

28 Grand Finale 

Young England in 1934 and 1939 

IN THE dim light of rehearsal the tall bespectacled figure against the 
orchestra-rail dominated the whole theatre. Something in his voice 
and bearing stirred a memory of the Virgil who once conducted Irving 
at Drury Lane through Sardou's Inferno. It was Walter Reynolds, an 
actor forgotten in retirement these twenty years though in his time he 
had not only played many parts but written several plays, including 
The Sin Of A Life for Charles Warner at the Princess's in 1901. The 
piece he now directed was his own — a message, he had declared, for 
the heedless London of 1934. The leading lady listened to her instruc- 
tions. She had had about enough when the old author began telling 
her how to wear her hair. When her offer to wear any wig to suit his 
fancy prompted a lecture against modern neglect of woman's crowning 
glory, praised by poets in countless ages, she objected. The author 
answered that the character she represented was a great part, and told 
her she would never play a greater. She was countering this with the 
times and places where she had played Portia, Cleopatra, Ophelia, Lady 
Macbeth . . . when he interrupted. " I did not say a larger," he chided, 
" I said a greater." 

On 10 September 1934, his play, Young England, opened at the Vic- 
toria Palace before unsuspecting playgoers. That Boy Scouts and 
Girl Guides had been engaged in large numbers they knew : nothing 
much besides of an untoward nature. Some preliminary scenes of 
heroism and villainy during a Zeppelin raid had passed before they 
guessed that Walter Reynolds' work was unusual in any other way. 
Some remark that a female character had been " as innocent as a babe 
before she left the Girl Guides " caused a titter; and the next few 
minutes decided that Young England, far from being a very bad play, 
was the play of a lifetime. Row upon row of mouths opened for 
laughter before the end of every line. No droll or wit ever faced an 
audience readier for mirth. " Old-fashioned " misrepresents because 
it implies that something like it had been seen before. Nothing of the 
sort had. The plot was about blue-prints in a competition over plans 



for a new town hall. That was new. Both the hero and the villain 
were Scoutmasters, and the heroine was a Guidemistress. All this was 
new. There was a harking back to Boucicault when the crime was 
photographed by an untended camera (as in The Octoroon), but as the 
record was not just one negative but a reel of film to be shown later 
on the screen, enough of this was new. The finale was altogether new, 
for three walls fell like the walls of Jericho to reveal ranks of Scouts, 
Guides and policemen, flanking a girl dressed as Britannia, while above 
them " Young England " shone in letters of electric light. 

There never had been anything like that play. Probably there never 
will be. It takes its place as the queerest jest in stage history. It cannot 
be surpassed as unconscious humour, since it lasted not for moments 
but for months. As a craze it outlasted any other that fashion or intel- 
lect ever affected. What enhanced its peculiarities was the arrival at 
the Garrick of Love On The Dole, a masterly study of industrial unem- 
ployment which clearly showed that the drama of democracy had 
divorced itself completely from unquestioning belief in virtue 
triumphant. Elsewhere players " guyed Victorians " by acting melo- 
dramas absurdly. Young England eclipsed all these it if could be classed 
with them ; it should not be. It gave expression to simple faith in the 
old doctrine that the good would be profanely rewarded and the bad 
punished. Numbers of people had that faith. Some of them told the 
manager, night by night, how much they liked the play and how much 
they disliked the behaviour of the audience, winding up regularly with 
the words, " I have never been so disgusted in all my life ". The 
behaviour of the audience was peculiar : more so than the play. 
Not every antic of stalls, pit and gallery could be ascribed to the enjoy- 
ment of a joke. Heckling prompted by laughter lost its good-nature. 

At first there was a general desire simply to join in. Groups who 
came regularly liked to anticipate events by shouting, " Give him half-a- 
crown ", when the war widow was about to do so. Not wit but high 
spirits inspired nearly all such interjections. Should a woman of the 
streets fear suicide because of" something after death ", stalls, pit and 
gallery heavily sighed " A-a-a-ah! " (while upper circle sensed blas- 
phemy). Any hint of a love-scene provoked comment and any touch 
of humour a vast guffaw. Such humour was nothing if not forced, 
for many plays would lend themselves more readily to such treatment. 
Pennies were thrown on the stage when a female begged to be excused 
for a few minutes. When the bad Scoutmaster gazed at the brass 
handle of the safe he had robbed and took out his pocket-handkerchief, 
he prolonged the agony while voices cried, " Wipe it ". Shouts of 
" the duchess " greeted Lord Headingly's references to his mother. 


The author had been too long an actor to provide any worse oppor- 
tunities for hecklers' zeal than these. 

As a regular spectator in a prominent box he, in all sincerity, showed 
a better way. There was an accident in the Scouts' camp. " Who 
will fetch a doctor ? " asked the hero. " I will," said a Guide, wheeling 
forward her bicycle. Here Reynolds himself led and prolonged the 
applause. Apparently he was always there to mark approval with 
undiminished vigour when the boys defied the police to arrest their 
falsely-accused Scoutmaster and when the landlord who wished to 
eject a poor widow came beneath an upturned pail of water. Rey- 
nolds knew his play was good. Nobody disputed its ability to draw 
the public even though lessees of empty theatres would not accept a 
transfer when it had to leave the Victoria Palace. When a full house 
welcomed it to the Kingsway, it was still a concerted effort between 
cast and audience. At the curtain the author rebuked the busy mockers. 
If they did not agree with his ideas there were others who did. He 
read a list of well-known people who had seen Young England ten, 
twenty, some nearly thirty times, and he argued from such great names 
as these — including a future King of England — that the elect found 
merit where the common herd did not. It was a fighting speech and 
he retired, without bowing, amid cheers which rang true — upon which 
stage policemen at P. and O.P. reached across the orchestra towards 
playgoers in corner front-row stalls. Hands were linked for the singing 
of " Auld Lang Syne ". No one quite knew why but it fitted. 

Night after night the frenzy grew. So far the drama had been 
speeded on its way. Now it was interrupted. Self-appointed con- 
ductors rose in the stalls, back to the stage, in order to urge the parterre 
to more noise over the chorus of " Boy Scouts, Boy Scouts ". The 
part that custom had hallowed for voices in front was departed from. 
Anybody shouted anything that came into his head. No words at 
times emerged from the uproar. What it expressed seemed to be not 
humour but rage. The play moved on to the Piccadilly Theatre, 
where the pandemonium grew until the Lord Chamberlain gave warn- 
ing and the Riot Act, figuratively speaking, was read. All self-control 
had gone. The licence of Young England was withdrawn. The heck- 
lers were like wild urchins who have rebelled against their school- 
master and got the upper hand. The joke had gone. Even mischief 
could not be sensed. There was the anger of the disillusioned, of old 
gods falling. These disturbers of the peace were plainly annoyed 
because the play was, in the sense used by Pinero's profligate, good. 

Other events interested the public. Melodrama suddenly decided 
all the world must be its stage. " But — but," cried young players 



who believed that nothing was so dead and buried as " ham " (by 
which term the melodramatic had become known), " but it's such bad 
theatre ". They took this short cut to express what astonished all the 
millions of spectators in cinemas, who had looked on one menace as a 
clown and the other as a tout — and yet both menaces were real. War 
had become an accepted part of existence when Young England, to 
supply gaiety to a hard-pressed nation, was revived at the Holborn 
Empire. The preliminary scene of the Zeppelin-raid reached the point 
where the audience used to say, " Give him half-a-crown ". Some- 
body in the stalls said it without much urgency. The great moment 
with the girl's bicycle absented itself because the good Scoutmaster 
casually told his signallers to transmit an S.O.S. for a medical man on 
their " walkie-talkie " now they were up-to-date. But the most 
significant change occurred when the villain, a shirker, was confronted 
by a woman of the streets who told him what other men from Canada, 
New Zealand, Australia and Africa were doing. Such an attitude, of 
course, had originated the whole series of auditorium versicles and 
responses in the past. There was not so much as a smile now. Virtue, 
like the heraldic lion who sentimentalizes over its own tail, stood passant 


The Trial adapted from Kafka 

IT W A S in the cinema that the public first showed a distaste for melo- 
drama. For a time after the second world war, subjects that kept to 
the vice-f ersus-virtuc rule or followed any such familiar pattern were 
shunned by talking-films as a whole even though " Westerns " never 
went out of fashion. Neither did Ancient Rome : though accustomed 
to the plain fact that the latest thing in entertainments is usually the 
most old-fashioned, elderly playgoers felt slightly dazed in 1952 to see 
Quo Vadis? exhibited as the glossiest novelty in super-films. In the 
same period (the 1950s) the melodramatic creed was effectively 
answered by French films. In one Manon Lescaut appeared in modern 
dress as an illegal immigrant into mandated Palestine; it was more 
faithful in spirit to its original than any version in costume. In another, 
Le Diable Au Corps, a tale of love was told without consideration for our 
moral feelings : the boy and girl did not forfeit sympathy although the 
husband was in the trenches, and the betrayal, almost a monopoly of 
melodrama for over a century apart from Guineveres and Melisandes 
in fancy dress, happened without relation either to virtue or to villainy. 
As a medium of thought the cinema had won more respect than the 
stage (more particularly now that playwrights had discovered how to 
be melodramatic and intellectual at one and the same time), or perhaps 
I ought to say that it would have done so if mechanized marvels had 
ceased to be invented. Some early examples of television-drama were 
bad enough but new inventions in the cinema were worse. Let me 
quote from an account by Miss Dilys Powell in the Sunday Times of 
a three-dimensional film called Sangaree at the Plaza in 1953 . . . " the 
enemies are piracy, bubonic plague and an asinine story. It is, how- 
ever, a story which admits a good deal of throwing : knife-throwing, 
chair-throwing, barrel-throwing, even, in a fight, the throwing of 
human bodies. During these exercises we are conscious as we shelter 
behind the head in front. . . ." When melodrama can thus make you 
feel you are going to be hit by a body in full flight, we have obviously 
progressed so far that we are back to where our great-grandparents 



were when they hailed the miracles of the " sensation drama M with 
which this history began. 

One night in Paris I saw a play — Gide's stage version of Le Prods by 
Kafka — that made me think the existence of melodrama had ended. 
Barrault presented himself to all of us as ourselves. Each scene was a 
glimpse of the human mind where we watched our introspective 
faculties at work. I saw myself arrested, tried, mobbed, and executed 
by my own self-accusations, which kept a large number of actors very 

Here, in the one performance I have witnessed which could be ac- 
cepted as peculiar to the middle of the twentieth century, the sense of 
guilt was exhibited according to the spirit of the age. Now, I thought, I 
may write CURTAIN to my drama of humanity's obsession with 
virtue rewarded and villainy punished. But from that day to this 
I have been watching a revival, both on the stage and in private life, of 
renewed belief in all the odd delusions that made melodrama grow. 
The plays and novels which please us now are often based on fictions 
which have flourished for the past 200 years ; and that strictly modern 
play, enjoyed by thousands of ordinary pleasure-seekers in Paris, came 
to London, as The Trial at the Winter Garden, only to be damned out- 

Nevertheless, in my own time I have seen melodrama grow old and 
then die. I have written its history accordingly. Those who are 
industriously presiding over its rebirth may learn something from 
studying the course of its previous existence. And as this is being 
written, one of our intellectual haunts is showing Senza Pieta, a film of 
post-war Italy with a plot that recalls George Barnwell, the oldest melo- 
drama in any language. 


(Roman numerals in capitals refer to halftone illustrations) 

/\dye, Oscar, LXXXVI 

Agate, James, 138 

Aide, Hamilton, 142 

Aiken, Frank E., 48 

Ainley, Henry, LXXXIV 

Albery, James, 140, 149 

Alexander, Sir George, 137, LXXI, 

Allen, Grant, 120, 154 
Anderson, James R., 90, 147 
Antoine, 133 
Archer, W. (author), 30 
Archer, William (critic), 30, 122, 131, 

Armstrong, Paul, 177 
Arthur, Joseph, 86 
Audre (or Audrey), Olga, 171 
Australia, 69-71, 82, 130 

JJacon, Frank, 189 

Baker, Barton, 78 

Bancroft, Lady, see Marie Wilton 

Bancroft, Sir Squire, 37-40, XII, 59, 80, 

96, 97, 140 
Barnett, J. P., 71, 72 
Barnum, Phineas, 88 
Barrault, Jean Louis, 198 
Barrett, George, 103 
Barrett, Wilson, XXXV, 103-9, "I, 

112, XL VIII, L, LI, Lffl, 118, 119, 

LXI, 121-4, LXIII, LXIV, 125, 132, 

Barrie, Sir James, 136, 178, 179, 187 
Barry more, John, 184, 185 
Bateman, H. L., 139-43, 146 
Bateman, Isabel, 94, 113, LXXIII, 139- 

43, 146 
Bateman, Kate, 8, 65, 66, 106, 139 
Bateman, Mrs. H. L., 139, 146 
Battersea, 15 
Beaumarchais, 58 
Beerbohm, Sir Max, 84 n. 
Beere, Mrs. Bernard, XXV, XXVI, 

Belasco, David, 89, no, 176 
Bellew, Kyrle, 130 
Benedict, Sir Julius, 6 
Bernhardt, Sarah, XXII-XXIV, XXVII, 

59-61, 115, 138, 183 
Birmingham, 30, 166 

Bjornson, Bjornstone, 132 

Booth, J. B., 101, 122 

Boston, 6, 40, 113 

Boucicault, Dion, 4-12, 16, VIII, 17-19, 

32, 84, 86, 87, 92, 158 
Boucicault, Mrs. Dion, see Agnes 

Boucicault, Dion G., 18, 19 
Boucicault, William, 18 
Boulevard du Crime, 144 
Braddon, M. E., 27-32 
Bradford, 152 
Braithwaite, Lilian, CII 
Brandes, Edward, 132 
Brereton, Austin, 140 
Brieux, Eugene, 178 
Bronte, Charlotte, 25 
Brougham, John, 22, 24-6, 71, 87 
Buchanan, Robert, 94, 113, 116, 117 
Buckstone, J. B., 36, 44 
Burnand, Sir F. C, 140 
Burnett, Mrs. Frances Hodgson, LXVIII, 

Busnach, William, 77, 78 
Byron, H. J., 32, 83, 129 
Byron, Lord, 50, 149 


jaine, Sir Henry Hall, 117-20, 

LXI, 122, LXXXI-LXXXIV, 160-4 
Campbell, Mrs. Patrick, 137, 138, 

LXXII, 178 
Campion, Cyril, 192 
Carr, Comyns, 100, 128, 150 
Carroll, Lewis, in, 112 
Caruso, Enrico, 176 
Cavendish, Ada, LVIII 
Chambers, Haddon, 82, 83, 98, 100, 155 
Chatrian, Alexandre, 140 
Chevalier, Albert, 174 
Chicago, 48, 124 
Churchill, Sir Winston, 185 
Claxton, Kate, 72 
Cole, Edith, XCVI 
Cole, Lieutenant, 85 
Collier, Constance, LXXXVI 
Collingham, C. G., 174 
Collins, Arthur, 159 
Collins, Wilkie, XVII, XVIII, 51-3, 

92, 127 
Conquest, Benjamin Oliver, 87 
Conquest, Mrs. Benjamin, 87 




Conquest, George, 72, 87-9 

Cook, Dutton, 53, 129 

Cooper, Fenimore, 125 

Cooper, Frank, LXXXW 

Coquelin, Benoit, 87 

Corder, William, 43, 45 

Corelli, Marie, 121, 122 

Coward, Noel, 187, 190, CII 

Crabtree, Charlotte, "Lotta", 120 

Craig, Edith, LII 

Craig, Gordon, LII, 144, 149, 150, 154 

Craven, H. T., 34-6 

Crawford, Alice, LXXXI, LXXXII 

Curel, Vicomte Francois de, 134 

-L-Jacre, Arthur, 8.1, 82, 157, 158 

Dacrc, Mrs. Arthur, see Amy Roselle 

Dale, Felix, 49 

Daly, Augustin, 8, 12-16, 84 

Dana, Marvin, 178 

Darwin, Charles Robert, 126 

Daudet, Alphonse, 126 

Davenport, Lizzie, 21, 22 

Deane, Hamilton, 175 

Decourcelle, Pierre, 75 

De Curel, Vicomte Francois, 134 

De la Ramee, Louise, "Ouida", 120, 

De Mille, Cecil Blount, 183 
De Mille, Henry C, 183 
De Mille, William C, 183 
Dennery, 3, 16, 50, 72 
De Silva, Nell (Lady Martin-Harvey), 

Destinn, Emmy, 176 
Dickens, Charles, xi, xii, 8, 22, 24, 36, 

XVIII, 48, 51, 52, 62, 69, 71-3, 86, 

126, 151, 176, 184 
Dickson, Dorothy, CIII 
Dircks, Professor, 8 
Douglass, John, 68 
Doyle, Arthur Conan, 54 
Dreyfus, Alfred, 98 
Dublin, 9, 24 
Ducrow, Andrew, 46 
Dumas, Alexandre Jils, 2, 20, 33, XXII, 

59, 78, 126, 137, LXX, 190 
Dumas, Alexandre pere, 20, 148, 174 
Du Maurier, George, 150, 176 
Du Maurier, Sir Gerald, 176, XCIV, 

XCV, 177, 178, 191 
Du Maurier, Guy, XCVII, 177 
Duse, Eleonora, 137, LXX 
Dyall, Franklin, CIII 

Jjadie, Dennis, XCIV 

Eastlake, Mary, XXXV, 108, 109, 121, 

Edge worth, Maria, 12 
Edward VII, 10 
Edwardes, George, 98 
Egg, Augustus Leonard, 104 

Eliot, George, 125, 126 
Erckmann, Emile, 140 

Paber, Leslie, CIII 

Fairbanks, Douglas (senior), 184 

Fairbrother, Sydney, XXXI 

Falconer, Edmund, 9, 12 

Fechter, Charles, 52, 145 

Fenn, Frederick, 178 

Feuillet, Octave, 33, 34 

Feval, Paul, 90 

Fielding, Henry, 43 

Fitzball, Edward, 4, 62 

Fitzgerald, Percy, 146 

Fleetwood, Francis, 87 n. 

Foote, Lydia, XV, 85 

Forbes-Robertson, Sir Johnston, 113, 

Forest, Esme, 178 

Fouche, Joseph, due d'Otranto, 55-7 
Frederick-Lemaitre, 145, 149 
Freud, Sigmund, 192 
Frith, William Powell, 85 

VJaboriau, Emile, 51 

Galsworthy, John, 190 

Gastineau, 77 

George VI, 195 

Germany, 130 

Gide, Andre, 198 

Gilbert, Sir William Schwenck, 37, 47, 

no, 125-7 
Gillette, William, 100, XLVI, 101 
Gladstone, William Ewart, 123 
Graham, George, 124 
Griffin, Gerald, 5, 44 
Griffith, David Wark, 181 
Grillparzer, Franz, 50, 51 
Godwin, William, 42 
Goldsmith, Oliver, in 
Green, Anna Katherine, 53 
Grossmith, Lawrence, XCVII 
Grundy, Sydney, 98, 108 


.ALIFAX, 53 

Halliday, Andrew, 84-6, 97, 103 

Hamilton, Henry, 158, 159, 163, 164 

Hammond, Bert, 172, 174, 191 

Hanbury, Lily, 157 

Harding, Ann, CI 

Hardy, Thomas, 127, 128, 131, 132, 
137, 160 

Hare, John, X, XI, XIII 

Harker, Gordon, CIII 

Harris, Augustus Glossop, 89, 90 

Harris, Sir Augustus, 89-95, 130. 155-9 

Harvey, Frank, 108 

Harvey, Martin, see Sir John Martin- 

Hawthorne, Grace, 174 

Hay, Ian, 98 



Hazlcwood, Miss, 17 
Hazlewood, C. H., 14, 17, 48, 68 
Heath, Caroline, 103-5 
Henry, O., 177 
Herman, Henry, 105-8, 130 
Heron, Matilda, 28 
Hichens, Robert, 150 
Hicks, Sir Seymour, 98, 164 
Hitler, A., 192, 196 
Hoffe, Monckton, 187 
Holloway, W. E., 123 
Hollywood, 73, 182, 185 
Hood, Thomas, 140 
Hope, Anthony, 150 
Hornung, E. W, 177 
Howard, Walter, 174, 175 
Howells, William Dean, 43 
Hughes, Annie, LXVIII, 128 
Hume, Fergus, 53 
Hyne, Cuthffe, 191 

Ibsen, Henrik, xii, 130-7, 179 

Irving, Sir Henry, xii, 32, 33, 82, 138, 

LXXIII-LXXVIII, 139-53, 175 
Irving, Laurence, 150 
Irving, Washington, 11 

J ames, Dr. Arthur, see Arthur Dacre 
Jannings, Emil, 183 
Jefferson, Joseph, V, VI, 10, 11 
Jeffries, Maud, LXII, 123, LXIII, LXIV 
Jerrold, Douglas, 43, 44, 87, 98-100 
Jolson, Al, 185 
Jones, Avonia, 30 
Jones, Henry Arthur, 106-8, III, 112, 

XLVIII-LI, LIV, 113, 130 
Josephs, Fanny, 36 


.afka, Franz, 198 
Kean, Charles, 3, 145, 149 
Kean, Edmund, 97, 145 
Keane, Doris, 114 
Keene, Laura, 5, 22, 25, 33 
Kelly, W. W., 174, 175 
Kemble, John Philip, 147 
Kendal, W. H., XIX, XX, 99, LXVII, 

Kendal, Mrs., see Robertson, Dame 

Kennion, Mrs., 78, 79 
Kierkegaard, 135 
Kimbcrley, Mrs. Charlotte Anne, 175 

.Lane, Sara, 68 

Lang, John, 56 

Lang, Matheson, LXXXI, LXXXII, 162 

Laughton, Charles, 183 

Lee, Jennie, XXX, 70 

Lee, Kate, 72 

Leeds, 8, 103 

Leitch, George, 82 

Leslie, Henry, 64 

Lewes, George Henry, 126 

Lewes, M. G., 43 

Lewis, Leopold, 85, LXXV, LXXVI, 

140, 141, 147 
Lion, Leon M., 187 
Liverpool, 8, 9, 38, 124 
Loftus, Cissie, CI 
Londesborough, Lord, 17 
Long, John Luther, 176 
Lotta, see Crabtree, Charlotte 
Louisiana, 6 
Lytton, Lord, 24, 116, 142, 146 


.ACDERMOTT, G. H., 52, 1 66 

MacLellan, C. M. S., 177 

Macready, William Charles, 145 

Maeder, F. G., 17 

Manchester, 32, 46, 90 

Margate, 64, 108 

Marston, Westland, 34 

Marten, Maria, 43, 45 

Martin-Harvey, Sir John, LXXX, 151 

Mathews, Charles J., 21, 22 

Mathews, Mrs. Charles, see Lizzie 

Matthews, James Brander, 56, 59 
Maude, Cyril, LXXI 
Maugham, William Somerset, 179, 187, 

189, 191 
Melford, Austin, LXXXIV 
Melville, Andrew (junior), 166, 168 
Melville, Andrew (Em), 166 
Melville, Frederick, XC, XCII, XCIII, 

165-75, I9i 
Melville, George, 166 
Melville, Walter, XCI, 165-75 
Meritt, Paul, 53, 72, 88-95, 156-8 
Merivale, H. C, 49, 149 
Millward, Jessie, 98, 100, XLIV, XLV, 

Modjeska, Helena, 104 
Mollison, William, LXXIV 
Monckton, Lady, 81, 82 
Mortimer, James, 72, 102 
Murray, D. L., 86, 90, 100 n. 
Mussolini, B., 192, 196 


agel, Conrad, CI 
Napoleon I, 55, 174 
Napoleon III, 58, 115 
Neilson, Adelaide, XXVIII, 64, 106 
Neilson, Julia, LVI 
Nero, 122, 183 
Neville, Henry, XIV, XVI, 48, 49, 

XXXII, 94, 102, 158, 159 
Newcastle, 14 

Newton, Henry Chance, 106 
New York, 4, II, 5, 8, 9, 12, 24-6, 33, 

48, 71, 72, 88, 97, 151, 187 



New Zealand, 82 
Norway, 130-6 
Nottingham, 31 
Niblo, Fred, 182 
Nicholls, Harry, XLI 


'hnet, Georges, 129 
Ouida, 120, 121 
Oxenford, John, 30, 33, 72 

Jl aris, 10, 33, 34, 44, 58, XXIV, 
XXVII, 64, 72, 77, 140, 144, 198 

Parker, John, 30 

Parker, Louis Napoleon, 124 

Peabody, George, 67, 70 

Pemberton, Edgar, 34 

Pepper, Professor, 8 

Pettitt, Henry, 89, 92, 98, 99, XLVII, 
157, 158 

Phelps, Samuel, 149 

Philadelphia, 56 

Phillips, Watts, 63-4, 84, 149 

Pinero, Sir Arthur Wing, 128-33, 154. 

Pitt, Dibdin, 46 

Planche\ J. R., 55, 56 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 40, 43, 56 

Potter, Paul, 150 

Powell, Dilys, 197 

Prevost, l'Abbe, 185, 197 

Puccini, 61, 176 


Raleigh, Cecil, 158, 159, 163, 164 

Ramsgate, 106 

Rayner, Barnabus, 46 

Reade, Charles, 2, 17, 59, XXXVI, 69, 

77, 92, 144 
Reynolds, Walter, CIV, 193-6 
Richardson, Samuel, 113 
Rignold, William, XXXII, XLI 
Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 188 
Robertson, Agnes, 4-7, 18 
Robertson, Dame Madge, XIX, 99, 

LXVII, 129 
Robertson, Forbes, see Sir Johnston 

Robertson, Tom, 17, 38-41, X-XIII, 86 
Robson, Frederick, 56 
Roosevelt, Blanche, 58 
Roselle, Amy, 81, 82 
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 116, 117 
Rousby, William Wybert, 106 
Rousby, Mrs., 70, 102, 106, 141 
Rowe, Nicholas (18th century), 102, 

Rowe, Nicholas (19th century), 64 
Ruskin, John, 73 

►t. Louis, 122 

Saker, Annie, 174 

Sala, George Augustus Henry, 22, 77 

San Francisco, 120 

Sand, George, 139 

Sardou, Victorien, 56, 58, XXII-XXVI, 

59-61, 115, 138, LXXIV, 151, 178, 

Schreiner, Olive, 154 
Scott, Clement, 40, 59, 92, 130, 132 
Scott, Sir Walter, 85, 97, 149, 174 
Scudamore, F. A., 168 
Seebohm, E. V., 128 
Selby, Charles, 14 
Shakespeare, William, xi, 35, 43, 45 n., 

68, 76, 87, 89, 90, 97, 121, 139, 144-52, 

167, 169, 176, 193 
Shaw, George Bernard, 59, 120, 149, 

153, 162, 163, 179, 188, 192 
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 3 
Shirley, Arthur, 76 
Shore, Jane, 1, 102-5, 181 
Sienkiewicz, Henryk, 124, 182 
Simpson, J. Palgrave, 21, 22, 49, 149 
Sims, George R., XXXI, XXXIII- 

XXXV, 73-6, 94, 98, 99, XLVII, 104, 

105, in, 141, 180 
Slaughter, Tod, 175 
Smith, Albert, 22 
Smith, Winchell, 189 
Sothern, Edward A., 34 
Stead, Philip John, 44 n. 
Stephens, W., 52 
Stephenson, B. C, 59, 98 
Stephenson, C. H., 49 
Stoker, Bram, 175 
Stowe, Mrs. Harriet Elizabeth, 2-4 
Strange, Stanislaus, 124 
Stratford-on-Avon, 121 
Sudermann, Hermann, 132, 137 
Suter, W. E., 30 

JLayleure, Clifton W., 28 
Taylor, Tom, 2, 10, 20, 21, 33, XIV- 

XVI, 47, 51, 56, 66, 70, 87 
Taylor, T. P., 144 n. 
Tennyson, Lord, 25, 59, 104, 149, 150, 

Terriss, Ellaline, 97 
Terriss, William, 86, 96-100, XLII- 

XLV, 101 
Terry, Dame Ellen, 64, LII, 146-8, 151, 

Terry, Fred, LVII 
Terry, Marion, LXV 
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 25 
Thorndyke, Louise, 19 
Thorne, Eliza, 72 
Tolstoy, Count Ilya, 185 
Tolstoy, Count Leo, 132, 133, 137, 185 
Toole, J. L., XXLX 
Toscanini, 176 

Tosti, Sir Francesco Paolo, 93 
Traill, H. O., 150 



Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm, XXXVIII, 
81, 82, 113, LV, 130, LXXIX, 150, 

Tristram, W. Outram, 59 


estris, Madame, 21, 37 
Vezin, Hermann, LII, 127, 148 
Vezin, Mrs., 31 
Victoria, Queen, 6 
Vidocq, Francois, 44, 45, 55 
Vienna, 50 

Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred, 76 
Voltaire, 40 


agner, Richard, 176 
Walkley, A. B., 58, 138, 146, 154 
Wallace, Edgar, 191 
Wallace, Lew, 116, C, 182 
Wallack, James, 97, 149 
Wallack, Mrs. J. W., 51 
Waller, Lewis, 120, 121 
Walpole, Horace, 43 
Warner, Charles, XXXVI, 78, 104, 177, 

Warren, Brooke, 175 
Webster, Benjamin, VII, 5, 10, 11, 21, 

36, 37, 44, 85, 149 

Webster, Benjamin (junior), 139 

Western, Lucille, 28, 31 

White, Pearl, 180, XCVIII 

Whyte-Melville, Major, 116 

Wigan, 79 

Wilde, Oscar, 153 

Willardjohn, 188 

Willard, E. S., XXXVII, LIV 

Wills, Freeman, 103, 174 

Wills, W. G., 99, 102-5, 108, in, 113, 

LXXIII, 142, 143, 146, 149, 150, 174 
Wilton, Marie, 36-9, X, XI, XXI, 59, 

Wimperis, Arthur, 178 
Woffington, Peg, 2 

Wood, Mrs. Henry, LX, 27-32, 51, 103 
Woolcot, Alexander, 177 
Woolff, B., 28 
Worcester, 9 
Wright, Haidee, 122 

Yates, Edmund, 21, 22, 90 
Young, Sir Charles, XXXVII, 81 
Young, W., 182 

j ola, Emile, XXXVI, 76-80, 105, 


(Roman numerals in capitals refer to halftone illustrations) 


.da The Betrayed, 43 
Admirable Crichton, The, 178 
Adrienne Lecouvreur, XXVII, 59 
After Dark, 16 
Ahnfrau, Die, 50 
Aieule, V, 51 
Aiglon, L\ 138 

Alias Jimmy Valentine, XCV, 177 
All Is Not Gold That Glitters, 112 
American Born, 89 
Ancestress, The, 50 
Androcles And The Lion, 179 
Ange De Minuit, L\ 87, 88 
Arrah-na-Pogue, 9, 17 
Arsene Lupin, XCIV, 177 
Assommoir, V, 77 
Aurora Floyd, 30 



abil And Bijou, 17 
Bad Girl Of The Family, The, XCII, 

XCIII, 172 
Bat, The, 188 
Becket, 149, 151, 152 
Beggar Girl's Wedding, The, 172, 173 
Beggar's Opera, The, 20 
Belle Of New York, The, 177 
Belle's Stratagem, The, 97 
Bells, The, LXXV, LXXVI, 140, 141, 

147, 151. 152 
Bells OfHaslemere, The, 98, 99 
Ben Hur, 182 
Ben-My-Chree, 118, 163 
Benefit Of The Doubt, The, 154 
Between Two Women, XC, 17 
Bishop's Son, The, 163 
Black-Eyed Susan, 98-100 
Black Sheep, 20-2, 49, 80 
Bleak House, 22, 71, 72 
B/iW GjV/'j Fortune, The, 72 
B/i'na* Sis/cr, Tfte, 72 
Blow for Blow, 32 
Bohimiens De Paris, Les, 14 
Bondman, The, 118, LXXXIV, 161-3 
Bound To Succeed, 89 
Brand, 135, 160 
Breaking A Butterfly, 130, 131 
Br/fw/i Bom, 89 
Buckingham, 102 
Bull-Dog Drummond, 191 

tamille, 28, 29 

Captain Cuttle, 25 

Captain Kettle, 25 

Captain 5u/i/?, XXXVIII, 82, 83, 155 
Corfe, 40, 41, X-XII 
Cat And The Canary, The, 188 
CflHie Celebre, Une, 45 
Charles I, 142, 143 
Cheer! Boys, Cheer!, 159 
Christian King, The, LX, 124 
Christian, The, LXXXI, LXXXII, 160-2 
Ode, T«e, 189 
Clarissa Harlo we, 113 
Claudian, 108 
Clerical Error, A, 106 
Clito, 108, 109 
Cold June, A, 190 
Colleen Bawn, The, 3, 5-9, 17, 19 
Constant Wife, The, 189 
Convict, The, 49 
Coriolanus, 151 

Corsican Brothers, The, 70, 145, 148 
Courier Of Lyons, The, 144 
Courrier De Lyons, Le, 144 n. 
Couteaux D'Or, Les, 90 
Creole, The, 4 
Cricket, The, 139 

D'Alroy, Evelyn, LXXXIX 

Damaged Goods, 179 

Dame ylux Camillas, La, 2, 28, 29, XXII, 

59, 78, 102, no, 137, LXX 
Dancing GiW, 77ie, 112, LV-LVII 
Dangerous Women, 168 
Dame/, 138 
Dan'/ Drnce, Blacksmith, LXV, LXVI, 

125, 127 
Dan/e, LXXIV, 151, 1 93 
Darling Of The Gods, The, 176 
Daughters Of Babylon, The, LXII, 124 
David Copper field, 176 
Dead Heart, The, 149 
Delilah, 121 

Deroy Winner, T/ie, 158 
Detective, The, 48 
Dewx Gosses, Les, 75 
Dewx Orphelines, Les, 72 
Devil's Disciple, The, 163 
Diplomacy, 59, 81 
Do//'5 House, ^4, 130-2, 136, 137 




Dora (Rcade), 59 

Dora (Sardou), 58 

Dracula, 175 

Drink, 77, 78, 177 

Driven From Home, 166 

Dumb Man of Manchester, The, 46, 47 

Hast Lynne, IX, 27-32, 51, 103, 107, 

Edith, 28 
Eily O'Connor, 5 

Englishman's Home, An, XCVII, 177 
Eternal City, The, 163 
Eternal Question, The, 163 
Eugene Aram, LXXIII, 142 

Pace At The Window, The, 175 

Factory Assassin, 46 

Faithful Heart, The, 187 

Fanchette, 139, 140 

Fanchon, 139 

Fanny's First Play, 179 

Far From The Madding Crowd, 128 

Fatal Card, The, XLV 

Faust And Marguerite, 145 

Ftdora, XXVI, 59, 137 

Fighting Parson, The, 175 

Firefly, 120 

Flower Girl, The, 64 

Flying Scud, The, 12, 17, 96, 158 

For Ever, 93, 94 

For Love, 17 

Formosa, 17 

Fossiles, Les, 133, 134 

Fom/ P/ay, 17 

Froufrou, 59, 137 

Frozen Pool, The, 6$ 

KJarden of Allah, The, 164. 

Gauntlet, A, 132 

Gm/w, r/je, 118 

George Barnwell, 190, 198 

Ghost's Bargain, The, 8 

Ghosts, 135, 179 

Gi'r/'i Crow .Roais, yl, 169, 170, 172 

Girl Of The Golden West, The, 176 

Girl Who Wrecked His Home, The, 172 

Gismonda, 115 

Gold, 69, 71 

Golden Daggers, The, 90 

Golden Farmer, The, 44, 45 

Golden Fleece, The, 50 

Go Wen L<i<taer, The, 1 11, 112, LIII 

Golden Plough, The, 53 

Good Luck, 164 

Good Old Times, The, 118, 119 

Gouvernante, La, 28 n. 

Grace Royal, 53 

Grasshopper, The, 139 

Great City, The, 84, 85 

Grey Lady Of Penarvon, The, 5 1 

Grille, Die, 139 
Guinea Gold, 129 

jTlamlet, 144, 145, 160, 184, 193 

Hfl«<f And Glove, 88 

Harbour Lights, The, 98 

Haunted Houses, 83 

Heartsease, 102 

HecWa Gabler, 136, 137 

Heimat, 137 

HeW By Tne Enemy, 100 

Her Loi>e Against The World, 175 

Her P<rt/z To Sorrow, 175 

Hero Of Romance, A, 34 

Hidden Hand, The, 51 

H.M.S. Pinafore, 125 

Home C/w£, 190 

Honour, 132 

Hoodman Blind, 108 

Hop Pickers, The, 6 

Hope, The, LXXXVIII, LXXXIX, 164 

Human Nature, 94, 132 

Humanity, 94, 175 

Hunted Down, 32 

in T/ie Days O/T/ze Dwfee, 100 
In Tne Panib, 99, XLVII 
Iron C/zesf, Tne, 148 
Ironmaster, The, 129, LXIX 
Is Li/e W^orf n Living?, 167 
if '5 Nef er Too Late To Mend, 69 
Ivanhoe (see also Rebecca), 174 
.fry Ha//, 33 

Jack ^4nd" The Beanstalk, 10 

Jane Eyre, 25 

fane Shore, 1, 102-5, 154 

Jean De La Poste, 10 

fessie Brown, 7 

Jessy Vere, 28 n., 68 

J7/f, The, 19 

Jim Tne Penman, XXXVII, 81 

Jo, XXX, 71 

Jo The Waif, 72 

Joan Of Arc, 70 

Joe Tne Waj'£ 72 

Juana, 104 

jHdan, 112, LIV 

Juif Polonnais, Le, 140 

JS^ing Arthur, 150 

l^ady Audley's Secret, 30 
Laoy O/" Tne Lake, The, 97 
Laa> Of Lyons, The, 146 
Laay Windermere's Fan, 153 
Lani OfMoa, The, 82 
Land Pars ylna* Wafer Pate, 84, 92 
Lash, The, 192 



Leah, 8, 130, 139 

Leah Kleschna, 177 

Lear, 145 

Lie, The, 108 n. 

Life Of Pleasure, A, 157, 158 

Lightnin', 189 

Lights O' London, The, XXXIII, XXXIV, 

73, 74, 104 
Lily of Killarney, The, 6 
Little Eyolf, 136 
Little Fadette, The, 139 
Little Gerty, 86 

Little Lord Fauntleroy, LXVIII, 128 
London By Gaslight, 17 
London By Night, 14-16 
London Labour And London Poor, 68 
Long Strike, The, III, 1 1 
Lost In London, 6, XXVIII, XXIX, 63, 

Lottery Of Life, The, 26 
Louis XI, LXXVII, 145 
Love On The Dole, 194 
Lucky Durham, 124 
Lutte Pour La Vie, La, 126 
Lyons Mail, The, 144, 145 

IVlacbeth, 90, 144, 145, 193 

Madame Butterfly, 176 

Magda, 137 

Maitre Des Forges, Le, 129 

Man And His Makers, 124 

Mann Mit Dem Freischein, Der, 48 

Manxman, The, 1 19-21 

Maria Marten, 43, 45, 128 

Marriage Bells, The, 30 

Marriages Of May fair, The, 163 

Mary, Queen Of Scots, 102 

Mary Melvyn, 62 

Mary Rose, 187 

Mary Warner, 66 

Masks And Faces, 2 

Master Builder, The, 136 

Master Of Rauenswood, The, 149 

Maud's Peril, 62, 63 

Medea In Corinth, 142 

Medicine Man, The, 150 

Meg's Diversion, 36 

Merchant Of Venice, The, 146, 151, 193 

Michael And His Lost Angel, 113 

Midge, 72 

Afj/fey W^/j/fe, 35, 36 

M///er And His Men, The, 2 

Miller Of New Jersey, The, 25, 26 

Minnigrey, 4 

Miriam s Crime, 35 

Misanthropy And Repentance, 1 

Mrs. Warren's Profession, 162 

Mbttfe ^4«</ 77ie Woman, The, 174 

Moonstone, The, 53 

Afoye On, 72 

Mwc/j Ado About Nothing, 146 

Mwfwy At The Nore, The, 87 

My Old Dutch, 174 
My Poll And My Partner Joe, 18 
Mystery Of A Hansom Cab, The, 53, 54 
Mystery Of Edwin Drood, The, 52 

Psana, 78-80 

Neu> Babylon, 91, 116 

New Magdalen, The, 106, no, in, 116 

Neu/ Men And Old Acres, 20, 21 

Nicholas Nickleby, 86 

Mfr/jf ylttd Morning, 24, 44 

Nine, 78, 79 

No Thoroughfare, XVIII, 51, 52 

Norman's Love, 28 n. 

Notorious Mrs. Ebbsmith, The, 154 

Nowadays, 119 


htoroon, The, 4-7, 123 
O'Dowd, The, 18 
OW Men ylnd New ^4eres, 20, 21 
Oliver Twist, 176 
Olivia, in, LII, 149 
Omadhaun, The, 18 
One C/77je Betf, XLIII, 98, no 
On/y H/*y, The, 103, LXXX, 15] 
Oonagh, 12 

Orange Girl, The, 64.-6 
Othello, 45 n., 78, 144 
Our American Cousin, 33, 34 
Our Betters, 187, 189 
Owr Boys, 129 
Owr Ne//y, 3 5 
Ours, 38-40, 86 

i artners For Life, 129, 131 

Pattes De Mouche, Les, 56 

Paul Zegers, 140 

Pauvres De Paris, Les, 8 

Peep O' Day, 9 

Penelope, 179 

Peter Be//, 78 

Pefer T/je Greaf, 150 

Petit Faust, Le, 70 

Philip, 142 

Pickwick, 140 

Pirates of Penzance, The, 125 

Pizarro, 3, 147 

Pleasure, 156, 157 

P/o/ ^4«J Passion, 56, 57 

P/wcfe, 92, 93 

Poor Of Leeds, The, 8 

Poor Of Liverpool, The, 8 

Poor O/Neu; York, T/je, 8, 9, VIII 

Potf Boy, 77ie, 35 

Power Of Darkness, The, 132 

Power O/ The Cross, The, 175 

Presumptive Evidence, 44 



Prince Fazil, 190 

Prisoner O/Zenda, The, 150, 151 

Prods, Le, 198 

Prodigal Daughter, The, 157 

Prodigal Son, The, LXXXIII, 161 

Profligate, The, 133 

Puissance Des Timbres, La, 133 

Pygmalion, 179 

\Jfuo Vadis?, 124 

K.affles, 177 

Ralph Gaston, 64 

Ravenswood, 149 

Rebecca, 97 

Red Lamp, The, 59 

Red Rover, The, 125 

Relief Of Lucknow, The, 7 

Rescue On The Raft, The, 92 

Rescued, 84 

Revenants, Les, 134, 135 

Richard Coeur De Lion, XLII 

Richard III, 144, 145, 150 

Richelieu, 142 

fii'tt^r, T/ie, 191, CIII 

Kip Fan Wwfe/e, V, VI, 10, 11 

Robbers, The, 130 

Robert Macaire, 149 

Robespierre, 151 

Roman D'UnJeune Homme Pauvre, Le, 35 

Romance, 114 

Romance Of A Poor Young Man, The, 

33, 35 
Romany Rye, The, 74, 75, 105 
Romeo And Juliet, 89, 97 
Rosmersholm, 136 
£oya/ Divorce, A, 174, 175 
Ruined Lives, 175 
£wm of Luck, A, XLI, 94 

Sim QM Li/e, TTie, 193 

Sm* O/* Society, The, LXXXVI, 

Sirocco, 190 
Sister Mary, 132 
Soldier's Wedding, The, XCI 
Sorrows Of Satan, The, 121 
Squeaker, The, 191 
S^wjre, T/ie, LXVII, 128 
Still Alarm, The, XXXIX, 86 
Still Waters Run Deep, 20-1 
Storm-Beaten, 116 
Story Of An African Farm, 154 n. 
Story Of The Rosary, The, 175 
Stranger, The, 1, 2, 28 
Streets Of London, The, 9, VIII, 19 
Sunshine Through Clouds, 24 
Susan Hopley, 46, 47 
Sweeney Todd, 175 

lempter, The, 113 

Theodora, XXIII, 60 

Therese Raquin, 76 

TTnrtf For GoW, T«e, VII 

Trtree Musketeers, The, 174 

Ticket-of-Leave Man, The, XIV-XVI, 

Ticket-of-Leave Woman, The, 48 
Time And The Hour, 49 
Tom And ferry, 24 
Too Late, 63 

Tosca, La, XXIV, XXV, 60, 61, 137, 176 
Trial, The, 198 
TWa/ OfEffie Deans, The, 8 
Tn/oy, LXXIX, 150 
Twelve Pound Look, The, 136 
' Twixt Axe And Crown, 141 
Two Boys, The, 76 
Two Little Vagabonds, XXXI, 76 
Two Lives Of Mary Leigh, The, 32 
Two Orphans, The, XXXII, 72, 73 
Two Roses, 149 

vj ailor And His Lass, A, 94 

Saint foan, 188 

Saints And Sinners, 1 1 1 

Sappho, 50 

Scrap Of Paper, A, 58 

ScwttfeJ S/n>, T/ie, 17 

Sea Of Ice, The, 3, VII 

Second Mrs. Tanqueray, The, 137, 138 

Sorre* Service (Planche), 55, 56, 189 

Secret Service (Gillette), 100, XI VI 

Seven Days' Leave, 174 

Shaughraun, The, II, IV, 17, 18, 19 

Sheppey, 191 

Sttou/, TTie, 190 

Sign Of The Cross, The, 122-4, LXIII, 

Silver King, The, 107, XLVIII-L, 123 
Sinbad The Sailor, 90 

U gliest Woman On Earth, The, 171, 172 
Uncle Tom's Cabin, 2-4, 85 
Under The Gaslight, 12 
Under Two Flags, 120 

V anderdecken (T. P. Taylor), 144 n. 
Vanderdecken (Wills and Fitzgerald), 

Vanity Fair, 25 
Vidocq, 44, 45 
Vortex, The, 187, CII 

Wandering Jew, The, 85 
Wanted For Murder, 191 


Was She To Blame?, 175 
Werner, 50, 51, 149 
Whip, The, LXXXV, 163, 164 
White Heather, The, 159 
Why Men Love Women, 175 
William And Susan, 99 
Winter's Tale, The, 45 n. 
Within The Law, 178 
Wives By Advertisement, 43 


Wizard Of The Waves, The, 144 n. 

Woman In White, The, XVII, 52 

Workman, The, 108 

World, The, XL, 92 

Worst Woman In London, The, 168-71 

Young England, CIV, 193-6 
Youth, 91, 92 


(Roman numerals in capitals refer to halftone illustrations) 


II Quiet On The Western Front, 186 

JjenHur, C, 182, 183 
Birth Of A Nation, The, 181 
Black Pirate, The, 184, 185 
Branded Sombrero, The, 181 

LJiahle Au Corps, Le, 197 

LlastLynne, CI, 186 

Vaust, 183 

Cr odless Girl, The, 183 

Intolerance, XCIX, 181, 182 

J ane Shore, 181 

King Of Kings, The, 183 

JLiast Laugh, The, 183 

IVlanon Lescaut, 185, 197 

1 \ ana, 79 

V-Jrphans Of The Storm, 73 
Ostler Joe, 180, 181 

Of Pauline, The, 180, XCVIII, 

1 erils 

C^/wo Vadis?, 182, 197 

lS^esurrection, 185 

*3<7Ngdree, 197 

Smsra Piefa, 198 

Sfcn Of The Cross, The, 183 

Singing Fool, The, 185 

,/ett Commandments, The, 183 


(Roman numerals in capitals refer to halftone illustrations. Theatres are in London 
unless otherwise stated) 

Adelphi, V-VII, 5-8, 10, n, 17, 18, 30, 
36, XVIII, 44, Si. 53, XXVIII, XXIX, 
62-4, 84, 85, 96, 98-100, XLIII- 
XLVII, 101, no, 116, LX, 116, 191 

Aldwych, XCII, XCIII, 172 

Ambigu (Paris), 76, 77, 87, 138 

Amphitheatre (Liverpool), 49 

Apollo, 191 

Arch Street Theatre (Philadelphia), 

Astley's, 7, 8, 31, 39, 46 

JJelasco (Pittsburg), 176 
Birkenhead, Royal, 175 
Brighton, Royal, 168 
Britannia, 30, 52, 68, 87 
Brixton, Empress, 168 


/ALIFornia Theatre (San Francisco), 

71, 120 
City of London, 144 n. 
Cluny (Paris), 140 
Coburg, see Victoria 
Comedy, 59, 132, 154, XCV, 177 
Court, 104, 106, in, LII, 149 
Covent Garden, 17, 23, 24, 90 
Crystal Palace, 90 

\jTadsty, 17, 24 

Gaite (Paris), 10 

Garrick, XXV, 133, 1 54 

Garrick (Whitechapel), 87 

Globe (Wych Street), XXX, 71, III, 

129, 131 
Grand (Birmingham), 166 
Grand (Fulham), 72 
Grand, formerly Amphitheatre (Leeds), 

103, 104, 119, LXI 
Grecian, 4, 72, 87-9, 103, 158, 166 
Gymnase (Paris), 129 


.AYMARKET, 34, 36, XXVI, 59, 65, 

66, XXXVIII, 81, 82, 96, 106, 112, 

113, LV-LVII, LXV, LXVI, 125, 

LXXLX, 178 
Herald Square (New York), 176 
Her Majesty's, 12, 90 
Holborn Empire, 8 n., 196 
Holborn Theatre, alias Duke's, n, 17, 

Hudson (New York), 187 

JA-ELly's Theatre (Liverpool), 174 
Kennington, 124 
Kings way, 195 


'rury Lane, 4, IV, 7, 17, 35, 55, 69, 
72, XL-XLII, 84, 85, 89-94, 96-9, 
152, 155-60, LXXXVI-LXXXIX, 
161-4, 180, XCIX, 182 

Duke of York's, 176, XCIV, 177 

Duke's, see Holborn 

JJjASt London, 72 

Effingham Saloon, 30 

Elephant and Castle, 172-5 

Empire (Leicester Square), 84 n., 158 

Everyman, CII 

'rei Buhne (Germany), 137 

.Laura Keenb's (New York), 5, 33 
Lyceum, 4, III, 9, 11, 24, 70, 113, 


139-51, LXXXI, LXXXII, 162, 174, 

175, 191 
Lyric (Shaftesbury Avenue), 114, LIX, 



.cVicker's (Chicago), 124 
Madison Square (New York), 100 
Manchester, 32 

Manhattan Opera House, New, 154 n. 
Manhattan Opera House (New York), 

Marylebone, 140 
Maxine Elliot's (New York), 114 
Metropolitan Opera House (New York), 





IN ational (Washington), 176 
Nottingham, 31 

vJdeon (Paris), 56 

Old Vic, see Victoria Theatre 

Olympic, 4, 10, 17, 21, 23, 31, 37, 
XIV-XVII, 47-9, 51, 53, 56, 57, 72, 
73, 108, no, LVII, 121, 139, 174 

Opera Comique, 125 

St. Charles (New Orleans), 139 

St. James's, 8, 20, 32, LXVII, 130, 137, 

St. Martin's, 190 
Shaftesbury, XXXVII, 112, LIV, 120, 

Stadt (New York), 139 
Standard, 31, 68, 94, 168-72 
Strand, 14, 15, 31, 35, 36, 71, 79, 97 
Surrey, 30, 35, 44, 45, 52, 64-6, 71, 84, 

92, 93, 103, 120 

Xark (Brooklyn), 52 

Pavilion (Whitechapel), 4, 16, 49, 68, 72 

Piccadilly, 195 

Plaza, 197 

Porte-Saint-Martin (Paris), 59, 72, 138 

Prince of Wales's (Birmingham), 96 

Prince of Wales's (Liverpool), 38, 71, 

Prince of Wales's, formerly Prince's 

(Coventry Street), no, LXVIII, 128, 

Prince of Wales's, later Scala (Tottenham 

Street), 37~4i, X-XIII, 59, 146 
Prince's (Shaftesbury Avenue), 174, 175 
Princess's, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 30, 33, XXXI, 

XXXIII-XXXVI, 69, 70, 73, 76-8, 

XXXIX, 83, 84, 86, 88, 90, 102-9, 

118, 119, 121, 129, 148, 174, 193 

Ierriss (Rotherhithe), XC, XCI, 

168, 170-2 
Theatre Libre (Paris), 133, 134 
Theatre Sarah Bernhardt, formerly 

Theatre des Nations (Paris), 138 
Tivoli, C 


nion Square (New York), 72 



Vaudeville (Paris), 59 

Victoria Theatre, alias Coburg, 46-8, 87, 

144 n. 
Victoria Palace, 193-5 

V^ueen's (Birmingham), 166 
Queen's (Long Acre), 27, 49, 70, 141 
Queen's (Tottenham Street), 24, 30, 37 

XVotunda (Liverpool), 72 
Royalty, 36, 64, no, 192 

•adler's Wells, 9, 87 


allack's (New York), 18, 24, 26, 

33, 44, 88, 142 
Walnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia), 

Winter Garden (Drury Lane), 198 
Winter Garden (New York), 4, 5, 7, 

28, 51 
Wood's Museum (Chicago), 48 
Worrell Sisters' (New York), 12 
Wyndham's, XCVII, 177, 178, 191, CIII